LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A turning point for Arkansas healthcare is around the corner as the state begins Medicaid talks.
There is a good amount of time for the legislature to figure out the next step, as the federal government will pay 100 percent of expanded Medicaid until 2015 and 90 percent until 2020. No matter the time frame, this topic is poised to be heavily debated next session.
"When you look at the facts and you look at the need, it will be hard to say no, not to do this," says Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson.
Thompson says the evidence supporting expanded Medicaid in Arkansas is hard to ignore.
According to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, an estimated 250-thousand Arkansans would fall under expanded Medicaid and another 200 thousand would qualify for subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
"The poverty thresholds will determine whether the state helps you through Medicaid or whether the federal government helps you buy private insurance through the insurance exchange," says Thompson.
The poverty threshold is broken down by annual income. Individuals who make $15,415 in a year or less qualify for Medicaid coverage. For a family of four it will be $31,809.These requirements are quite an increase from Arkansas current Medicaid qualifications.
"Today our Medicaid program will only let you get on if you're making three thousand dollars a year and have disabilities and have less than two thousand in assets," says Thompson.
Individuals making $44,680 dollars down to the previous mentioned Medicaid income level will qualify for subsidized private insurance.
And for a family of four that annual income is $92,200 dollars.
"You will come in and be assessed and get directed to which of the two programs you need to go to. When your income changes you will be reassessed to say should you come off Medicaid and now have to buy private insurance through the exchange," says Thompson.
Now if expanded Medicaid is approved by the state and that's a big if, it will impact many Arkansans. The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement reports that 78 percent of Arkansans will qualify for subsidized private insurance or Medicaid.