Ark. dis­abil­ity claims fall 19% af­ter Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —Paul Demko

The num­ber of Arkansas res­i­dents sign­ing up for fed­eral Sup­ple­men­tal Se­cu­rity In­come ben­e­fits has dropped 19% since Oc­to­ber 2013, which some state of­fi­cials are at­tribut­ing to ex­panded Med­i­caid el­i­gi­bil­ity.

First-time ap­pli­cants de­creased from 17,497 to 14,160 through early last week, ac­cord­ing to state data.

Arkansas is pro­vid­ing sub­si­dies to in­di­vid­u­als with in­comes up to 138% of the fed­eral poverty thresh­old to pur­chase pri­vate health plans through the ex­change un­der a model of ex­pan­sion backed by Gov. Mike Beebe, a Demo­crat, and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers. More than 190,000 Arkansas res­i­dents qual­i­fied for the ex­panded cov­er­age through the end of July. State Sen. Jonathan Dis­mang, a Repub­li­can and one of the ar­chi­tects of the “pri­vate op­tion” plan, said that he and his col­leagues had hoped that ex­pand­ing Med­i­caid would re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple in the SSI pro­gram, which is de­signed for low-in­come peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. “It’s too early to say with any cer­tainty that that’s the case,” Dis­mang said. “I think that there’s an in­di­ca­tion that there has been an im­pact.”

If Arkansas res­i­dents are in­deed for­go­ing dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits be­cause they can get health­care cov­er­age through Med­i­caid, it would be a pos­i­tive for the state’s bud­get. That’s be­cause the fed­eral gov­ern­ment picks up only about 70% of the tab for health­care cov­er­age when in­di­vid­u­als en­roll through the dis­abil­ity pro­gram, com­pared with 100% for Med­i­caid un­der the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act through 2016.

Ark. Gov. Mike Beebe

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