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    Ark. House GOP leader: Medicaid a work in progress

    2:47 PM, Jan 28, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Republican leader of the Arkansas House says his party is still working on legislation to change the state's Medicaid system.

    Rep. Bruce Westerman told reporters Monday that he believes fraud and abuse are major problems in the system based on anecdotal evidence he has seen.

    He declined to be more specific about the alleged fraud or about the reforms Republicans would be proposing to fix it. Westerman said Republican lawmakers would be releasing proposed reforms later this session.

    Gov. Mike Beebe has said that while he believes the state already effectively combats Medicaid fraud, he would be open to any proposals to further reduce it.

    Lawmakers are deciding how to solve a Medicaid budget shortfall and whether to expand the program under the federal health care law.

    Here are some of the major questions and answers about the issue:

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    WHERE DOES ARKANSAS STAND? - Gov. Mike Beebe has urged lawmakers to support expanding the state's Medicaid program under the federal health care law, but he faces resistance from Republicans in the House and Senate. Expanding Medicaid would require a three-fourths vote in the House and Senate.

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    HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE ON MEDICAID NOW? - Arkansas currently has about 776,000 people on Medicaid, according to the state Department of Human Services.

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    HOW MANY PEOPLE WOULD BE ADDED IF MEDICAID IS EXPANDED? - DHS says the state would add about 250,000 people to the Medicaid rolls if it opts for expansion. That number is made up of 215,000 people who would be newly eligible and 35,000 who are already eligible but not enrolled.

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    WHAT'S THE ARGUMENT FOR EXPANSION? - Beebe and state health officials argue expansion would assist the state's lowest-income workers and help hospitals save money by cutting down on the cost of care for patients without insurance. They say it would result in net savings for the state by cutting down on uncompensated care and through tax revenues related to new health care spending.

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    WHAT'S THE ARGUMENT AGAINST IT? - Republicans in general have opposed the expansion because they contend it would cost the state money at a time its Medicaid program faces a funding shortfall. While the federal government will cover costs for three years, the Republicans are skeptical that after the state gradually starts paying a share in the fourth year, it will top out at 10 percent, as promised. Some GOP leaders have pitched the idea of a partial expansion - covering fewer people than the health care law envisions, but federal officials say the state can't opt for partial expansion and receive full funding for the first three years.

    (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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