Enrollees in Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion program under Obamacare have skyrocketed in recent months to over 300,000, according to a recent report in Talk Business.
That news follows recent announcements by the state that health insurance premiums will be rising significantly in 2017, with possible larger rate increases to come in 2018.
When Congressman Bruce Westerman said earlier in the month that Obamacare was “imploding on itself,” he apparently wasn’t exaggerating.
Here’s how a spokeswoman for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield describes the current business climate for health insurance companies in Arkansas under Obamacare:
Under the approved rates for 2017, Blue Cross expects to lose $60 million next year on private-option plans and other individual market plans, on top of several million it expects to lose this year, Greenwood said.
“Something’s going to have to change for this program to be viable” Greenwood said, referring to health insurance exchanges set up in Arkansas and across the country.
She noted that several nonprofit insurance cooperatives, set up in other states under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, have shut down, and participation in exchanges by carriers nationwide has been declining.
One of the possible changes being considered by Arkansas legislators and bureaucrats is moving more high-cost or “medically frail” enrollees from the Medicaid expansion program onto traditional Medicaid.
Allen Kerr, the Arkansas Insurance Department Commissioner, said Monday that moving medically frail enrollees out of Medicaid expansion was a “course correction” that needed to be made next year to avoid another round of larger premium rate increases.
At a Health Care Legislative Task Force meeting in July, State Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang said, when discussing the enrollment of medically frail clients in the Medicaid expansion population:
If we do not have the mechanism to make sure those folks are in the right category with the right coverage, then we’re going to continue to have this problem.
“This problem” Dismang was referring to was the news that enrollees in Arkansas’s individual health insurance marketplace are the most costly to cover in the nation, according to a federal report released in June.
Dismang didn’t return a call by The Arkansas Project for comment.
There’s really one major problem with this possible planned change to Medicaid expansion in Arkansas.
Ever since we’ve had Medicaid expansion in Arkansas, it was accepted that a certain percentage would stay with traditional Medicaid. When we increase that percentage, really all we’re doing is increasing the ratio so as to shift costs away from Medicaid expansion — one (now larger) group of relatively expensive patients is in standard Medicaid, another (now smaller) group is in the now relatively cheaper Medicaid expansion plan. It’s a way to pretend that Medicaid expansion is saving money. It’s kind of like saying: we’re going to send all the really hungry people to McDonald’s, but we’re going to send everybody who’s on a diet to Burger King. If everybody pays a flat price for a meal, this sounds like great policy to Burger King stockholders. This does not demonstrate that Burger King saves money, as such — it only demonstrates that we’re assigning the less hungry or the less needy people to Burger King.
While it is understandable that legislators and bureaucrats who have made a significant political investment in implementing Medicaid expansion in Arkansas would want to engage in this kind of paper shuffling to attempt to slow its massive cost and enrollee growth, taxpayers shouldn’t expect to see much in the way of savings for these