Preliminary survey results from Arkansas show a significant drop in the number of uninsured since the implementation of the state’s so-called private option, a compromise hammered out between Gov. Mike Beebe (D), Republican state lawmakers, and the Obama administration to provide health care coverage to low-income residents.
Data released on Thursday from 42 hospitals show that emergency room visits dropped by 2 percent, “while the number of uninsured patients in those emergency rooms dropped by 24 percent,” the Associated Press notes.
Erik Dorey, a spokesperson for Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), said that the survey results indicated that the state’s implementation of health care reform is successfully providing insurance coverage to Arkansas families. “Because of Arkansas’ private option, 150,000 working families already know the security of quality coverage, and its successful implementation is a credit to Republicans and Democrats in Arkansas coming together to pass it into law,” Dorey said in a statement to ThinkProgress.
Indeed, hospitals are already seeing impressive results. “With the private option, we have literally seen a 50 percent reduction in uninsured patients coming through our emergency room,” chief executive officer Ray Montgomery of The White County Medical Center said. The program has removed “a financial barrier for individuals who have needed care and needed service use, so they are not waiting later to have more complicated, less effective, more costly outcomes,” Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson added.
The “private option” allows Arkansas to use federal Obamacare dollars to help residents earning up to 1.38 times the poverty level to buy private plans through Arkansas’ health care marketplace.
Last week, a handful of publicly traded hospitals also reported a decrease in self-pay admissions in the states that have expanded their Medicaid programs and predicted that the law would lower those kind of admissions from 8 percent to 4 percent over a three-year period.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R), who is challenging Pryor, did not respond to a request for comment.