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Arkansas Committee Discusses Differences Between Medicaid and Private Option

Some Arkansas lawmakers are concerned that private insurance in the state may take on characteristics of Medicaid with the implementation of the state's new private option of Medicaid expansion. State officials answered lawmakers questions Thursday at a joint meeting of the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committees about what the state's private option may look like.

Lawmakers want to know if the state's plan to buy private insurance with money intended for Medicaid would effectively make private insurance more like Medicaid and lead to a loss of quality and control for private providers.

Republican Representative Justin Harris, from northwest Arkansas, was one lawmaker questioning the difference between the private option and Medicaid.

Harris asked, “You also made a comment earlier about it being, the private option being, private insurance. But is it not true that, would you consider that private insurance still has to act and resemble Medicaid, is that not correct?" 

State Medicaid Director Andy Allison insisted the plans are indeed different.

"Neither the Health Care Independence Act, nor the Affordable Care Act, nor guidance that the Insurance Commissioners put out, nor this draft waiver says private insurance must now mimic Medicaid. It just doesn't.

Though Allison said Medicaid will not shape private plans, he did say the Affordable Care Act gives regulatory authority to ensure private plans meet certain criteria including coverage, cost-sharing, and medical-loss ratio provisions.

Jacob Kauffman is a former news anchor and reporter for KUAR.
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