Saturday, March 02, 2013

TOP STORY >> Medicaid deal tied to tax cut

Leader senior staff writer

Gov. Mike Beebe returned from Washington with permission to use Medicaid expansion money to help buy private coverage for the working poor through an exchange.

But there is some indication that Republicans, led by House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot), want new concessions from Beebe.

In reports this week, Carter has not definitely linked capital gains tax cuts to expanding Medicaid, but he has consistently worked them into the same sentence.

Carter has said that small businesses will be paying for much of the Medicaid expansion, so they should get a tax break.

Republicans have opposed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and the Medicaid expansion is part of that.

They asked Beebe to get clarification from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about whether or not there were options other than whole-hog Medicaid expansion.


“For months, I’ve worked to convince our lawmakers to accept federal money to insure about 250,000 of our citizens,” Beebe said Friday.

“Most of these Arkansans are the working poor, people who have jobs but don’t make enough to afford insurance premiums. Federal funds would pay for that insurance for three years, and eventually Arkansas would share 10 percent of the cost. This is an opportunity to help our people lead healthier, happier lives. Our hospitals would see reduced burdens for uncompensated care, expenditures that often end up costing all of us more,” Beebe said.

Sebelius told Beebe that “Arkansas could place as many of these newly insured clients into our health-insurance exchange as we wished. The federal government would still cover the costs for the first three years, but now these Arkansans could receive private insurance.”

Beebe said such flexibility allows the state to look at targeted co-pays and cost-sharing as part of potential new insurance policies.

“Nothing is certain yet, and a three-quarter supermajority of both the House and Senate is required for any additional insurance coverage to occur,” the governor said. “However, we are definitely making progress with this new option on the table.”

State Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood) said, “We will use Medicaid expansion to pay private premiums. Technically it’s not an expansion of Medicaid,” he said, but it means health coverage for the working poor, and that’s the important thing.”

Nickels said Carter has been more positive about the program since Beebe returned. “We should be able to take care of this issue during this session,” he said, because Gov. Beebe went to Washington and got everything the Repubicans were wanting.

“If (Republicans) will sign on to this, it will be a great solution,” Nickels said. “It may help the doctors and the hospitals, since they will have insurance covering their bills they may be able to collect more.”

Carter could not be reached for comment on Friday.