Radio Column

Asa Arkansas's Governor

Moving Forward with Arkansas Works

12/09/2016

Column Transcript

This week, I received some great news from Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. After negotiating terms with Washington over the past several months, she has now informed me that the waiver request for Arkansas Works will be granted.

We pursued four major elements of reform through the waiver, all intended to better align the Medicaid expansion program with the private insurance market. Our requests to establish work referral requirements and to promote premiums for some enrollees to encourage personal responsibility for health care costs were both approved. Our request to provide incentive benefits for enrollees who meet personal responsibility requirements and participate in wellness visits were also approved. And finally, we were granted authority to place a greater emphasis on employer-sponsored insurance through new employer incentives, setting a national precedent for reform in this area.

This is great news, and I look forward to further strengthening our state’s health care system under the next Administration. I’ve spoken with President-elect Trump and his team about Arkansas’s health care system. He has publicly indicated a firm commitment to allowing the states more flexibility to determine how to operate the healthcare program. I am excited for the new perspective that the Trump Administration will bring to Washington, and look forward to seeing what states will achieve, given greater flexibility and the power to innovate.

In the coming months, I expect us to push forward for more reform.  Under soon-to-be President Trump, we plan to revisit our waiver application to request additional changes, such as broadening incentives for companies offering employer-sponsored insurance, and establishing more stringent work and training requirements for Medicaid’s healthy adult population.

Our end goal is to develop a responsible and conservative approach to health care that helps those enrolled in safety net programs to advance economically. For this reason, Arkansas Works was created and adopted by the legislature last year. And soon, the program will start providing healthcare coverage for more than 300,000 Arkansans.

We knew at the start of this process that we wouldn’t get everything, but the majority of what we requested within our waiver application was granted, and we are confident that we can work with the next Administration to strengthen the program. With the waiver approved, we can proceed with Arkansas Works and the coverage it provides to many of our citizens, while better managing the costs of the program through the new reforms.

As we move into 2017, and as the new leadership team takes shape in Washington, I am optimistic for what’s ahead for our nation AND for the people of Arkansas.