LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday formally requested a federal waiver to allow certain changes to the state’s Medicaid expansion program.
Hutchinson asked the U.S. Health And Human Services Secretary Thomas Price to OK changes approved by the state Legislature earlier this year. He said in a letter to Price that the state’s program, formerly known as the private option and now known as Arkansas Works, has been successful in a number of ways.
“The changes we are seeking will build on these successes and increase the sustainability of the Arkansas Works program,” Hutchinson said in the letter.
The program, created in 2013 as an alternative to the expansion of Medicaid rolls envisioned in the federal Affordable Care Act, has provided private health insurance, mostly funded by the federal government, to more than 300,000 Arkansans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Hutchinson is seeking approval to lower the maximum income level for eligibility from 138 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty level; add work requirements for able-bodied adults; end 90-day retroactive coverage for new participants; and eliminate the employer-sponsored insurance premium assistance component so it can be replaced with a new, more targeted approach.
“Together, these amendments to the (program) seek to test innovative approaches to promoting personal responsibility and work, encouraging movement up the economic ladder, and facilitating transitions from Arkansas Works to employer-sponsored insurance and marketplace coverage,” Hutchinson said in the letter.
The request comes at a time of great uncertainty for the program’s future. The Senate has released a draft bill that would end federal funding for states’ Medicaid expansion programs in a few years.
Hutchinson told reporters Thursday that if the bill were to pass in its current form, it could cost Arkansas about $500 million a year and force the state to reduce or end Arkansas Works.