- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A Republican state senator has resigned from a task force studying the future of Arkansas’ hybrid Medicaid expansion, saying he doesn’t want to keep the program that provides health insurance to more than 200,000 people.

Sen. Terry Rice, of Waldron, said Wednesday that he resigned from the Health Reform Task Force because he didn’t like the direction the panel was headed. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson formed the group to study the program, which uses Medicaid money to pay for private health insurance for low-income Arkansans.

“When I agreed to be on this task force, I was the only one to have been against the Obamacare/Medicaid expansion … so my background was known,” Rice said. “My reason for being on it was for transparency, for hiring the consulting firm that we needed and could depend on.”

The panel voted last month to support Hutchinson’s plan to negotiate changes to the hybrid expansion, known as the private option. Rice told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1RluzNl ) that he’s concerned Arkansas will cut funding for traditional Medicaid recipients to pay for the program.

Hutchinson told the federal government this week that he wants to keep the private option but wants to add new restrictions and rename it “Arkansas Works.” The program was crafted in 2013 as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Hutchinson has proposed requiring participants to be referred to workforce training, charging premiums for some and putting a limit on assets such as houses for those on the program.

“Sen. Rice has been an important voice for a balanced debate on the future of Medicaid reform in Arkansas,” the governor said in a statement Wednesday. “I have the utmost respect for his views and I look forward to working with Sen. Rice as the issue of Medicaid reform moves into the Legislature next year.”


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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