- Associated Press - Friday, March 2, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A top Trump administration official is visiting Arkansas next week as state leaders await word on requests to impose a work requirement and scale back the eligibility of its Medicaid expansion, Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office said Friday.

Hutchinson’s office said the Republican governor and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma would hold a news conference Monday regarding the state’s hybrid program, which uses federal and state funds to purchase private insurance for low income residents. More than 285,000 people are on the program, created as an alternative to expanding traditional Medicaid under the federal health law.

Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said the governor was “optimistic” federal officials will approve the state’s proposed limits to the program, which include requiring thousands to either work or volunteer in order to receive coverage.

The Trump administration in January said it would allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid. It has already approved proposals from Kentucky and Indiana. Arkansas’ proposal would not affect those on its traditional Medicaid program.

A spokesman for CMS said officials looked forward to the visit, but declined to comment beyond Hutchinson’s announcement.

The state has also proposed moving 60,000 people off the Medicaid expansion by lowering the eligibility cap from 138 percent of the federal poverty level to 100 percent. Arkansas would have been the first state to scale back the eligibility for a key part of the federal health overhaul.

The work requirement’s approval was seen as key to winning support for reauthorizing the expansion in Arkansas, as part of the budget. The budget bill for Medicaid and the expansion requires three-fourths support in both chambers of the Legislature, and vacancies in the Senate have left supporters shy of the votes they’ll need.

“I think it’s very important and I think it’ll be very helpful,” Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren said. “There are some lawmakers who just want to see some continued change in the program to rein it back, and I think it’ll certainly have an impact on a few votes.”


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