Arkansas approves Medicaid expansion alternative

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas legislators have approved using federal money to buy private insurance for low-income residents, endorsing a plan eyed by other states seeking an alternative to expanding Medicaid.

The “private-option” plan was backed by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and Republicans who control the Legislature. The Obama administration has agreed to the plan in principle but hasn’t given final approval.

Lawmakers worked late Wednesday to pass the final pieces, including protections for small businesses that could face penalties if they don’t provide insurance for all their workers.

Under the plan, Arkansas would accept the money intended for Medicaid expansion but instead buy private insurance for about 250,000 low-income residents. The plan targets those making less than $15,415 per year.

Governors in Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas have expressed an interest.

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