Medicaid Reform: Three Lessons from Arkansas

One southern state is raising the bar. Arkansas made national headlines in 2013 when then-governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, struck a deal to make Arkansas the first southern state to expand Medicaid through Obamacare. Shortly thereafter, Beebe exited (stage left), leaving a fiscal, political, and moral disaster for the new administration to grapple with. But now, thanks in large part to the leadership of Republican governor Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas is taking significant steps toward reversing Obamacare’s devastating impact. Other expansion states should take note.

When Hutchinson took office in early 2015, enrollment in Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion had already surpassed 250,000 able-bodied adults. More people had signed up for the program than the Beebe administration had promised would ever even be eligible. Enrollment continued to skyrocket thereafter, reaching nearly 325,000 able-bodied adults in late 2016. Costs had been significantly and consistently over budget. And nearly half of all expansion enrollees do not work at all.