LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - If you're on Medicaid, you've probably heard a lot of confusing talk recently. Expansion is probably one of the biggest topics people are confused about, and to help you understand it more, Dr. Joe Thompson, Arkansas Surgeon General stopped by THV 11 News Studios to break it down.
"Between 19 and 64 years of age, 25 percent of Arkansas adults had no health insurance. The Affordable Care Act gives the state an option to expand Medicaid to cover the poorest of those individuals with a large amount of federal support and a little bit of state money," Thompson explained.
The expansion helps the state by meeting needs that the state is currently not able to meet, and it helps the state fiscally because the federal government will move some the people Arkansas is helping now onto 100 percent federal funds and it would make it less expensive for the state.
You need to know that Arkansas is facing some budget deficits for some of the individuals that are on Medicaid now. The general assembly is coming in to help.
"For people on Medicaid now, if you're getting regular Medicaid benefits or are on AR Kids first, you're probably ok. For those in nursing homes, one of the issues is 'How much support are we going to be able to provide nursing homes?' And, that's where we need some help from the general assembly," he explained.
What other decisions will legislators have to make in the upcoming session?
"In our state, our legislators decide where we spend money and how much money we spend. So, it will be up to the general assembly how we spend money and whether we take advantage of this offer the Federal Government has given us through the Affordable Care Act," he added.
Thompson said he thinks the Medicaid expansion is a very strong positive, and there are some other aspects of the Affordable Car Act that Arkansas has to make sure to make good choices on to avoid some of the pitfalls that could be associated with it.
For example, Arkansas has to make sure that citizens get what they need and not what Washington tells them they should have when it comes to the insurance exchange.
A lot of issues are still hanging in the air, but Thompson said the best insurance is to live a healthy life by getting out and exercising, quitting smoking, and enjoying life, so you don't need to go to the doctor to start with.
He said he would like to see support for a payment improvement, a good discussion about spending money now, and a good decision about taking opportunities to help increase the Medicaid program to help the poorest of the poor in Arkansas come out of the legislative session.