Arkansas: Governor Notifies HHS of Intent to Extend and Amend Medicaid Expansion Waiver

In line with the recommendations of the Arkansas Health Reform Legislative Task Force, Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) submitted an application to the federal government to extend the State's Medicaid expansion waiver past its current end date of December 31, 2016 and informed HHS Secretary Burwell of his intent to submit an application in spring 2016 to amend the expansion program. The amended program, called "Arkansas Works," may include reforms currently supported by the Governor's Advisory Council on Medicaid Reform and the Task Force, including mandatory premium assistance for employer sponsored insurance, a work referral program, and premiums for beneficiaries with incomes above 100% of the federal poverty level. Following submission of the extension application, the Governor announced that he will meet with Secretary Burwell on February 1 to discuss the proposed changes, and plans to call a special legislative session later this year on Medicaid expansion.

Kentucky: Governor Announces Medicaid Redesign and Expansion Leadership; Medicaid Commissioner Resigns

Despite his initial campaign promise to repeal Medicaid expansion, Governor Matt Bevin (R) announced that the State has begun to redesign the State's Medicaid program and replace the traditional Medicaid expansion program with an alternative model through a federal waiver. The Governor appointed Mark Birdwhistell, the Health and Family Services Secretary under former Governor Ernie Fletcher (R), to develop the program and work with CMS to reach agreement on the new direction, which is likely to include a requirement for enrollees to pay for some of their plan costs, according to the Governor. Governor Bevin hopes to finalize the plan in 2016 for a 2017 launch. The current Medicaid expansion program will continue until the new plan is launched. In the meantime, Lisa Lee, the Medicaid commissioner appointed by former Governor Steve Beshear (D), has resigned. The Governor's spokeswoman said the Administration has begun searching for a new commissioner.

Louisiana: Governor Signs Executive Order to Expand Medicaid, Announces July 1 Launch Date

Governor John Bel Edwards (D), who took office on January 11, signed an executive order to expand Medicaid, fulfilling a campaign promise to do so within 24 hours of his inauguration. The Governor also announced his intention to implement the expanded coverage by July 1, 2016. Rebekah Gee, the incoming Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, estimated that Medicaid expansion would make eligible an additional 300,000 Louisianians and noted she expects to hire 248 additional staff to handle the new enrollment and work with providers to address increased demand for services.

Missouri: Expanded Coverage for Pregnant Women Begins Under "Show-Me Healthy Babies"

Under the newly implemented Show-Me Healthy Babies program, recently approved by CMS under CHIP authority, pregnant women in families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL) are now eligible to receive coverage for prenatal care and other services through their pregnancy, labor, delivery and up to 60 days postpartum, according to a press release from Governor Jay Nixon (D). Enrollees' children will also receive automatic CHIP coverage for up to one year after birth. The State currently provides pregnancy coverage under Medicaid for individuals earning up to 196% FPL. An additional 1,800 women are expected to be eligible for coverage.

Montana: Expansion Launched January 1 with Robust Demand

Approximately 20,000 Montanans have enrolled in the State's Medicaid expansion program that launched on January 1. Montana's expansion plan, referred to as the Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) program, is estimated to cover up to 70,000 new adults and will be administered by the State's Third-Party Administrator, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana.

Medicaid Expansion Improves Access to Care for Low-Income Individuals Across Models, New Report Finds

A new report by the Commonwealth Fund found that low-income individuals residing in Arkansas and Kentucky, which have both expanded Medicaid, were more likely to be insured and less likely to have problems paying medical bills or being able to afford prescriptions than low-income individuals living in Texas, a state that has not expanded Medicaid. Between 2013 and 2014, Kentucky and Arkansas saw large drops in the uninsured rate and large increases in the rate of adults with chronic conditions receiving regular care. The authors note that findings across Kentucky's traditional expansion model, Arkansas's private option expansion model, and Texas's non-expansion suggest promising results for Medicaid expansion in improving access for low-income adults and that "deciding whether or not to expand matters much more than deciding how to expand."