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Republican Governors of Arkansas, Ohio Affirm Commitment to Medicaid Expansion

Recently elected Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, indicated a commitment to extend for another two years the state’s Medicaid expansion initiated by his Democratic predecessor. Arkansas has a model of Medicaid expansion often called “the private option,” through which the state uses federal money to enroll newly eligible beneficiaries in commercial insurance plans. However, Hutchinson also announced intentions to overhaul the program in 2017. Under Arkansas’ rules for extending the program, three fourths of the state’s legislature will still have to approve any extension.

The beginning of 2017 coincides with the first reduction in federal matching funds for newly eligible Medicaid enrollees. Services for this group will be fully federally funded through the end of next year, 2016. A major element of Hutchinson’s proposal for reforming the programs would be creating new preventive care and work incentives. Federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell signaled openness to this approach.

Recently re-elected Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio) also reaffirmed a commitment to his state’s Medicaid expansion as an element of economic opportunity. He cited a particular need to care for newly eligible enrollees struggling with mental illness and addiction without other access to treatment. He additionally noted efforts to bring job-training programs into the state’s welfare offices. Newly elected Republican Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona has not yet indicated his plans for the future of that state’s expansion.

The renewed commitment to providing both more economic opportunity and better health through Medicaid expansion in Arkansas and Ohio will be increasingly helpful to millions of people without other sources of health coverage. Hutchinson additionally highlighted how important the stability of the program was for Arkansas’ health care providers.  ITUP applauds the commitment of Govs. Hutchinson and Kasich in continuing to implement the ACA and improving the quality of life in their states.

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