Health care private option gets ‘conceptual support’ from feds

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe’s office said Tuesday that it has received a letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing “conceptual support” for the private option for providing health care coverage to Arkansas’ working poor under the federal Affordable Care Act.

In her letter, Sebelius said the state’s proposal is “generally consistent” with goals to expand health insurance coverage, the governor’s said. Her letter also included assurances that the federal government would work with the state to implement the plan.

“This is the written confirmation we’ve anticipated after our February meeting in Washington, D.C. Now it’s time for action in Arkansas,” Beebe said in a statement released by his office.

The letter is in response to a memo the state sent to federal officials last month, which generally outline the Health Insurance Marketplace developed legislative leaders and the governor.

“Members of the General Assembly and my administration have built a model that will provide working Arkansans with greater access to health care through private-sector insurance companies,” Beebe said. “Our innovative approach can create a national example of a state using Medicaid premium-assistance funds in an insurance marketplace that best serves its citizens.”

The private-option plan needs a two-thirds majority in the Legislature for approval. Republican leaders in the Legislature have expressed support for the plan.

In her letter, Sebelius said her office is interested in the “innovative approach to further expanding access to health insurance coverage” being considered by the Legislature.

“The concept in the memo appears to be generally consistent with the requirements of the Medicaid statute; we look forward to reviewing your demonstration proposal,” the letter said.