LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Awaiting the legislature's vote on the private-option bill to expand Medicaid in Arkansas is a major issue involving both state and federal government.
The private option plan will use the government Medicaid funding to purchase private insurance for low-income patients.
House Speaker Davy Carter announced Friday a delay in the appropriation but there is a scheduled vote on the measure for Monday.
THV 11's Melissa Dunbar-Gates sat down with Arkansas' Surgeon General Doctor Joe Thompson to find out how the state plans to implement the private-option insurance program, if the bill is passed.
"This is a very different Medicaid expansion strategy," explains Dr. Thompson. "It's the state taking the federal funds that have been taken out of Arkansas by the Affordable Care Act, bringing them back and helping people buy private health insurance, not expanding Medicaid."
Dr. Thompson calls it an excellent and innovative approach that will counterbalance some of the negative effects from the Affordable Care Act.
But what does this mean for Arkansans?
"Twenty-five percent of everyone, 19 to 64 years of age, that has no health insurance," he says. "And this will let people have a mechanism to have their own health insurance, to have it be private health insurance, not Medicaid, and to help them get the care that they need."
While Representative David Meeks says he feels the voting process in the legislature needs more time, Dr. Thompson says we can't wait.
"We have to have the insurance companies decide how much they would price the product for," Dr. Thompson explains. "In other words, if we put a quarter-million people into the insurance market, prices are going to be much more stable and lower than they otherwise would have been."
If the bill passes, people will be able to enroll in October with insurance starting to pay out in January of next year.