Arkansas Governor Wants to Keep Medicaid Expansion, but With Changes

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas on Wednesday told an advisory group weighing the future of the state’s alternative Medicaidexpansion that he favored keeping it — but only if the federal government allowed changes that seemed intended to appeal to conservative legislators who continue to oppose the program.

Mr. Hutchinson, a Republican who took office in January, created theadvisory group to recommend whether to change or replace the state’s “private option” version of Medicaid expansion. The program’s fate will ultimately be decided by the Republican-controlled legislature, which is likely to meet in a special session this year to vote on it.

Arkansas is among the states that have had the largest reductions in their uninsured rates under the Affordable Care Act, according to several national surveys. Under its private option, which Republican legislators devised as a politically acceptable alternative to expanding traditional Medicaid as the federal health law envisioned, the state has used federal money to buy private insurance for more than 200,000 low-income individuals.

But the private option itself has been unpopular among many Arkansas Republicans — even as several other states, including Indiana and Iowa, have adopted versions of it — and the Legislature must reauthorize financing for it every year, putting its future in constant jeopardy.

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