There are “too many” Arkansans on Obamacare Medicaid expansion plans, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and the program needs to be amended to “go further” in requiring work from enrollees.
Hutchinson’s comments follow a report released by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) this month that shows Medicaid expansion enrollment in Arkansas is 51 percent over initial enrollment projections.
Hutchinson said in a speech to Farm Bureau members today:
We have the expanded Medicaid population in Arkansas. You see stories about that from time to time. It’s grown to a number of over 300,000. That’s too many that are on there, but it’s important to have that expanded health care benefit particularly for rural areas and to benefit our population in this state. I’ve asked for a waiver from this (Obama) administration so that we could put on a requirement for anyone on the expanded Medicaid would have to be referred to workforce services for worker training.
Hutchinson is correct that there are currently “too many” enrollees on Medicaid expansion. Regrettably, he bears some of the blame for this: he’s partially responsible for the program overrunning projections. Hutchinson inherited the program when he took office in 2015, but he’s also watched enrollment grow while accepting the reimbursement checks that fund 100 percent of the program — until next year, when state taxpayers have to pick up part of the tab. State consultants project that state taxpayers will get to pay $80 million to fund a small portion of the program in 2017.
Hutchinson also spoke today about negotiating with the incoming Trump Administration about having a work requirement similar to the one Arkansas currently uses for its food stamp program. While the current expansion waiver request only asks for an enrollee to be “referred” by the state to workforce training (notably, there’s no requirement that the enrollee actually attends), Arkansas mandates that food stamp recipients either be in school, employed, or participating in job training or a volunteer program.
I actually believe it needs to go further than that and that if you’re able-bodied [on Medicaid expansion], you’re going to have to go to work and to have that requirement in place very similar to the SNAP benefits…either work, worker training or voluntary organizations. We can’t get that kind of permission from this administration, but we have a new administration coming into place. Former Congressman Tom Price will be the new head of Health and Human Services (HHS) and we’ll be going back to ask for new waivers and asking for more flexibility from this new administration.
Once Tom Price becomes HHS Secretary, it’s hard to believe Hutchinson’s request for an expansion work requirement won’t be accepted. Price has been a consistent critic of Obamacare throughout his Congressional career. Indeed, he’s the author of a legislative alternative to Obamacare called the Empowering Patients First Act.
Price’s plan would have rolled back Medicaid expansion completely; perhaps this aspect of Obamacare will be repealed next year, thus eliminating the need for Arkansans to continue asking the federal government for more waivers.