LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Starting in 2014, health-care reform will give the majority of Americans access to healthcare.
One way is through Medicaid. Now, states have the option to expand their Medicaid programs at the expense of the federal government.
Governor Beebe spoke to a room full of reporters Monday at the state capitol upon his return from France and while the press conference was intended to discuss trade efforts with France and China, the conversation quickly turned to health reform.
"There are no options for us. The option is expand or don't expand, accept or don't accept the additional federal money," said Governor Mike Beebe in reference to the federal government's new health-reform plan.
"Before people haul off and decide that they just want to ignore the possibility of 250,000 Arkansans being covered by the federal government for Medicaid, they better stop and think about that and that's what I'm stopping to do as well," said Governor Beebe.
"If you're an adult in Arkansas, you would pretty much have to be disabled or pregnant to be able to qualify for Medicaid.," says Amy Webb with the Department of Human Services.
She says a quarter of a million Arkansans currently without health insurance could qualify for Medicaid by 2014. But Republicans against the expansion, like State Representative David Meeks of Conway, are asking at what cost?
"I would have to be against it. I think there are other ways we can reform our Medicaid program and take care of those that are uninsured without expanding a program that right now is threatening to bankrupt Arkansas," said State Representative David Meeks.
Rep. Meeks says right now Arkansas is already delving into it's trust fund reserve to pay for Medicaid and if projections hold true, the 420 million dollars they started out with in the beginning of year will be gone by this time next year.
The current legislation says the federal government will cover 100% of the cost until 2017. After that, each state will begin to pay a portion, maxing out at 10 percent in the year 2020.
"What does that do to our budget? What does that do to our state income?" said Governor Beebe who wants answers to those questions before making a decision about the expansion.
A decision he says he plans to make before next year's legislative session.
"I'm worried about Arkansas. I'm worried about Arkansans. I'm worried about making a decision that's in the best interest of our own people," said Governor Beebe.