Private Option Backers Roll Out Next Phase

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Supporters of the private option introduced the planned creation of health savings accounts for medicaid expansion recipients on Tuesday.

A healthcare independence account allows recipients to save money monthly to go towards healthcare costs.

Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson says anyone making above $5,700 annually will receive a health savings card.

"These are folks who have never had resources to engage in an effective way with the healthcare system," Thompson says.

At a presentation before the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Legislative Oversight Committee, benefits of the independence accounts included:

  • Promoting transparency in health care costs.
  • Rewarding consumerism by lowering the economic exposure if a recipient makes monthly contributions.
  • Promoting personal responsibility.

State Sen. David Sanders (R--Little Rock), an architect of the compromise medicaid expansion passed in 2013, says the introduction of independence accounts is part of the evolution of dynamic health reform.

"The more consumers are focused on their health care, the less cost exposure there is," Sanders says.

The introduction of the independence accounts comes after primary elections in May saw key supporters of the private option losing seats in the Senate.

State Rep. Deborah Ferguson (D-West Memphis), says she is suspect of adding additional requirements for health care providers and that the prospects for the private option in 2015 are tenuous.

"I think people have made campaign promises and it's going to be very difficult to get the appropriation passed," Ferguson says.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services says 187,000 people have signed up for health coverage under the private option.

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