The Department of Human Services (DHS) runs the Medicaid program in Arkansas. Medicaid and Medicare are different programs. Medicaid is a program that helps pay for medically necessary medical services for needy and low-income persons. It uses state and federal government money. Medicare is federal health insurance. It pays for medical services for aged and disabled persons.
For additional information about Medicaid in Arkansas, please visit the Arkansas Medicaid website.
Health Care Independence Program (also known as the Private Option)
In 2013, Arkansas was the first state in the country to receive approval to use federal funding earmarked for Medicaid expansion to create the Health Care Independence Program, which buys private health insurance for eligible individuals making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Commonly called the private option, the program is 100 percent federally-funding in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The portion of federal funds then slowly decreases each year until the state is paying 10 percent in 2021.
The program allowed the state to end or reduce patchwork Medicaid programs that provided limited benefits to certain populations at a 70 percent federal funding/30 percent state funding rate. In addition, it doubled the number of people expected to be eligible for health insurance coverage bought through the online Insurance Marketplace. That strengthened the state's overall insurance market and attracted new carriers.
Meanwhile, local hospitals have reported seeing reductions in high uncompensated care costs that resulted from caring for the uninsured.
Important dates and documents related to the creation of this program:
February 26, 2013: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said existing Medicaid rules allow Arkansas to place people who would fall under Medicaid expansion in the private insurance market. Then Governor Mike Beebe proposed this approach at a meeting with the Secretary at the request of state Legislative leaders.
March 2013: Then Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services detailing Arkansas's unique approach to providing health care to low-income Arkansans. To read it, go here.
March 18: Legislators and others asked DHS to analyze the impact of placing the expansion population in the private insurance market. These estimates showed that the financial impact would be significantly less than expected. Since the March 18 release, DHS and its actuaries have published additional information to further explain the estimates.
March 27: DHS released a more detailed analysis showing the assumptions and dollar figures that support the estimate released earlier in the month.
April 2, 2013: Then Governor Beebe received a letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing conceptual support for Arkansas's private option. The letter comes less than a week after HHS released additional guidance to states about this approach.
April 18: The Health Care Independence Act and related appropriation bills passed both the Arkansas House and Senate, allowing the state to move forward with the private option.
April 22: Then Governor Beebe signed the bill into law. You can read the Health Care Independence Act of 2013 here.
Aug. 5, 2013: Medicaid submitted an 1115 demonstration waiver to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that allowed the state to move forward with the program. You can read the full submission here.
Oct. 1, 2013: The state began accepting applications for the program.
Jan. 1, 2014: Coverage for people determined eligible during the application process begins. By the end of the calendar year, more than 220,000 Arkansans had been determined eligible for the program.
Below are the current services and programs offered by the Division of Medical Services. Click the name of the service for a link to additional information and related website links.