LITTLE ROCK — A former human services official for Rhode Island and Pennsylvania has been proposed as a consultant to aid the Arkansas Legislature in dealing with Medicaid issues.
The Executive Committee of the state Legislative Council voted Monday to approve a contract for consulting services with Gary Alexander, former Rhode Island human services director and Pennsylvania secretary of public welfare.
Alexander is known as the author of the 2009 Rhode Island Global Medicaid Waiver, which allowed that state to implement various Medicaid reforms. Gov. Mike Beebe has requested a similar waiver for Arkansas.
The contract will go next to the legislative Joint Budget Committee for approval. The proposed contract would pay Alexander about $50,000 per month for four months, said Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock.
"As the author of the Global Medicaid Waiver, I think he brings lot of knowledge to the table," Sanders said.
The federal Affordable Care Act proposes adding people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to state Medicaid rolls, with most of the funding for the expansion to come from the federal government. Last week, Gov. Mike Beebe announced that the Obama administration has given Arkansas permission to use the federal dollars to pay premiums for those Arkansans to buy private insurance through the state’s health insurance exchange, if it chooses to do so.
Legislative leaders have said they want an independent analysis of the potential impact of the change, whether done by expanding the Medicaid rolls or by helping people buy private insurance.
Also Monday, the Arkansas Hospital Association released a report analyzing the financial impact to Arkansas if the state were to expand the Medicaid rolls. The association supports expansion.
The report was conducted for the association by George Washington University and Regional Economic Models Inc., one of the firms hired by the state Legislature to serve as a consultant on a proposed $1.1 billion steel mill project in Mississippi County.
The report found that expanding Medicaid could save the state $664 million between 2014 and 2020, the period when the federal government would fund 100 percent of expansion costs. After 2020, the state’s share of the cost would increase gradually to 10 percent, but the report concluded that "these increased costs also enable the state to draw down billions of dollars in additional federal funding that will support jobs and maintain the state’s health care infrastructure."
Between 8,500 and 11,500 jobs would be created as a result of expansion, according to the report.
The report does not address the so-called "private option" announced last week, but Bo Ryall, president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, said that if the state chooses either option, "we’ll save money."