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Arkansas Senate Approves Private Coverage Plan for Medicaid

By CQ Staff

April 18, 2013 -- The Arkansas state senate approved a plan last week to use the health care law exchanges to cover Medicaid beneficiaries, paving the way for an expected quick signature from Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat who has backed the approach.

The chamber voted 28-7 for the plan, which required 75 percent—27 votes—to pass. The Arkansas House approved the bill by a 77-23 vote.

Once Beebe signs the measure, the next hurtle state lawmakers would have to overcome is getting federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials to go along. Arkansas wants CMS to allow it to use money from the health care overhaul's Medicaid expansion to provide coverage to Medicaid beneficiaries through private plans that will be selling coverage in the new marketplaces established under the health law. Enrollment is scheduled to begin on Oct. 1.

States with officials who oppose the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) are watching the Arkansas developments and have suggested they may emulate it. This option would allow them to accept billions of federal dollars provided under the overhaul without appearing to support expanding a government program. CMS officials have said they are anxious to see proposals. Agency officials this week declined to provide any documents from Arkansas.

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