U.S. clears Arkansas Medicaid expansion proposal

Reuters

Sept 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. government approved Arkansas'proposal to use federal money targeted for expanding theMedicaid health program for the poor to help low-incomeresidents buy private insurance under President Barack Obama'shealthcare law.

The request was approved by the U.S. Centers for Medicareand Medicaid Services, the agency said on Friday. It will allowmore than 200,000 uninsured state residents to receivegovernment help to access health coverage.

"Arkansas and CMS worked together to find flexibilities thatgave the state the tools to build a program that worked for themand their residents," CMS said in a statement.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe received a call Friday morningfrom Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whooversees CMS, informing him of the approval, according to hisoffice.

"Now we will focus on getting this insurance to theArkansans who need it to lead healthier, more productive lives,"Beebe said in a statement.

Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act calls forexpanding Medicaid eligibility to Americans earning up to 138percent of the federal poverty level. A Supreme Court decisionlast year allowed each state to decide whether it wouldparticipate in the expansion.

Arkansas, Iowa and Pennsylvania have been seeking to modifythe expansion, including the option of using the federal fundsfor the expansion to help their residents buy insurance on theirown. Including Arkansas, 23 states and the District of Columbiahave agreed to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

The affordable care law aims to reduce the number ofAmerica's uninsured by almost half, or about 25 million people,in the next 10 years through the Medicaid expansion andstate-based marketplaces offering subsidized coverage.

About 8.7 million new beneficiaries are expected to enrollin Medicaid in 2014 alone, while another 7 million are expectedto buy insurance through the state exchanges. CMS said theArkansas decision meant that most of the newly eligible Medicaidbeneficiaries will buy their insurance on the state exchange.

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