A few months ago it seemed like Arkansas had found an ingenious way to skirt its blood-red politics while extending health-insurance coverage to about 200,000 of its poorest citizens. While many other Republican states were rejecting federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, as I wrote a few months ago, Arkansas had instead used the federal money to allow the new Medicaid beneficiaries to buy private plans. This move satisfied both the Democratic governor, Mike Beebe, and others who wanted healthcare expanded, as well as the Republican-controlled legislature, which wanted to rely on the private sector. This so-called “private option” is now being considered by other conservative states as a potential route to expansion.
“We felt getting people off of the government program onto private insurance is better for the state, the providers, and most importantly, for the consumer,” Arkansas House Speaker Davy Carter, a Republican, told me at the time.