Arkansas sees increase in Medicaid spending

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Spending on Arkansas’ expanded Medicaid program grew by nearly 24 percent last fiscal year, an increase that officials attribute to higher-than-expected enrollment.

Spending increase exceeded what state officials initially estimated by about $200 million, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. But despite the surge in overall cost, Arkansas spent about $5 million below what the state had projected.

According to data from the Arkansas Department of Human Services the state paid more than $38 million of the overall cost, which came to $1.9 billion.

Spending on the traditional Medicaid program, which covers low-income families and elderly people, also saw an increase of 4.3 percent. That’s compared to the 2.5 increase from fiscal 2015 to fiscal 2016.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement that the program is “unsustainable for every state, including Arkansas.” He says lawmakers have been “working hard to reform the program.”

The governor cited his plan to trim the growth of spending on tradition Medicaid program to save $835 million over five years.

“Our actions clearly demonstrate our commitment to getting Medicaid on a sustainable path, and we will continue identifying and advancing reforms to achieve that end,” Hutchinson said.

The state’s share of the increase of traditional Medicaid will increase to 6 percent in January and rise until it reaches 10 percent in 2020.

Hutchinson is hoping to limit the expense by removing about 60,000 people from the program, by restricting eligibility to people with incomes of up to the poverty level by January 1st.