LITTLE ROCK — Any new version of Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion should include an assets test, among other restrictions, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday.

LITTLE ROCK — Any new version of Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion should include an assets test, among other restrictions, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday.


In a speech at the 2015 Arkansas Medicaid Education Conference in Little Rock, Hutchinson gave an updated list of items he wants to see included if Arkansas is to continue accepting federal money for Medicaid expansion. The state’s current Medicaid expansion program, known as the private option, is slated to end Dec. 31, 2016.


Discussing the possibility of seeking an assets test, Hutchinson recalled that before he took office he received a call from an insurance agent who said someone was in the agent’s office signing up for the private option even though the person had a home worth more than $200,000 and a sizable bank account.


Although Medicaid expansion is limited under the federal Affordable Care Act to people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, there is no asset test to qualify, Hutchinson said.


"I don’t know whether (the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) would grant it or not, but I do believe we ought to fight for an asset test so that if they have that kind of bank account, then we can set some requirements that they have to pay more on their premiums or they have to be excluded from the program," he said.


The idea has been recommended by The Stephen Group, a consulting firm that has been hired to help a legislative task force make recommendations regarding what should replace the private option.


Hutchinson also said he favors a lifetime cap on benefits.


"If they’re able bodied, they’re trained, and they just are not incentivized to work, well maybe they need to be incentivized by having some cap on the benefits," he said.


Another item Hutchinson added to his wish list is eliminating a current rule that coverage is retroactive for 90 days preceding enrollment, also a recommendation of The Stephen Group.


Hutchinson also said he favors creating "a wind-down plan" for ending Medicaid expansion if the federal government does not stick with its promised 90-10 cost split. So far, the federal government has been paying 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion, but in 2017 states are scheduled to begin paying a portion of the cost that will increase gradually to 10 percent by 2020.


Hutchinson named several ideas he has discussed previously, including mandating participation in employer-based insurance, when available, with premium assistance provided through Medicaid; requiring referral of unemployed participants to work training; and requiring people with incomes above 100 percent of the federal poverty level to pay premiums.


Hutchinson said Tuesday there should be "consequences" for people who do not pay required premiums.


"If someone is able-bodied, they’re not doing what they should do, they’re not participating and taking personal responsibility, then after a set length of time they ought to be locked out of their coverage," he said.


The Stephen Group has recommended a lockout provision.


Hutchinson said previously he has dropped two ideas from his list: making the private option available only to working people and eliminating coverage for non-emergency medical transportation. The Stephen Group recommended against both ideas.


Talking to reporters after his talk Tuesday, Hutchinson said he hopes the Health Reform Legislative Task Force will decide on its recommendations at its Dec. 16 meeting. He said he expects to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in early January to discuss waivers the state would need to implement new reforms.


"Everything I’ve discussed here I’ve briefed her on, and she certainly indicates a willingness to work with us, but they have their own restrictions," she said.