by NICHOLAS HORTON
July 5, 2017 4:00 AM
One southern state is raising the bar. Arkansas made national headlines in 2013 when then-governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, struck a deal to make Arkansas the first southern state to expand Medicaid through Obamacare. Shortly thereafter, Beebe exited (stage left), leaving a fiscal, political, and moral disaster for the new administration to grapple with.
But now, thanks in large part to the leadership of Republican governor Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas is taking significant steps toward reversing Obamacareís devastating impact. Other expansion states should take note. When Hutchinson took office in early 2015, enrollment in Arkansasís Medicaid expansion had already surpassed 250,000 able-bodied adults. More people had signed up for the program than the Beebe administration had promised would ever even be eligible. Enrollment continued to skyrocket thereafter, reaching nearly 325,000 able-bodied adults in late 2016. Costs had been significantly and consistently over budget. And nearly half of all expansion enrollees do not work at all.
Arkansas reached a tipping point in January of this year when federal funding for the expansion dropped to 95 percent, pulling 5 percent of expansion costs out of the state budget. With surging enrollment and costs, something had to be done to stop the bleeding. So where do their efforts stand today, and what are the takeaways for policymakers? Based on Arkansasí progress, here are three major reforms other states should pursue.