White House Open to Medicaid Expansion Using Private Plans

Friday, 22 Mar 2013 11:15 AM

By Lisa Barron

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GOP governors are signing on for the chance to use federal funds to expand Medicaid with private insurance, a more expensive option but also one that would provide coverage to as many people as possible.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is already in talks with the White House about expanding the program by paying the premiums on commercial insurance, and Republicans in other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas, have expressed interest in the idea, reports The New York Times.

The director of Kasich’s Office of Health Transformation told the newspaper that top White House aide Valerie Jarrett called the governor in January and indicated that the administration was receptive to the idea.

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And Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas, a Democrat, reportedly got the go ahead from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius after facing stiff opposition to a straight expansion of Medicaid from Republicans in the state legislature.

“The feds have agreed to do what my legislators in various conversations have asked me to go ask them to do,” Beebe told the Times, adding that it allows Arkansas “to take the Medicaid population and expand it all the way to 138 percent of the poverty level and use federal Medicaid dollars to purchase insurance through the [insurance] exchange.”

That option might also appeal to other Republican state lawmakers, such as those in Florida, who rejected an earlier proposal by Republican Gov. Rick Scott to simply expand Medicaid with federal money.

Advocates for Medicaid beneficiaries, however, are not convinced that using private plans is the best idea. Leonardo Cuello, a lawyer at the National Health Law Program, told the Times that it could reduce protections for beneficiaries and increase costs to the government.

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