The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Sept. 27 approved an unusual Medicaid expansion proposal request from Arkansas that will allow the state to provide coverage for new enrollees via the federal /state health care exchange that will begin enrolling consumers Oct. 1.

Under the plan, the state will expand Medicaid to cover all individuals with income less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level  as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, providing coverage to more than 200,000  uninsured individuals, the CMS said.

About 778,997 Arkansas residents currently receive Medicaid, according to the agency. The Arkansas Health Care Independence Program  will operate statewide and will serve most of those newly eligible for Medicaid in the state. Arkansas will use premium assistance to support the purchase of coverage provided by Qualified Health Plans operating in its health insurance marketplace, according to a statement from the CMS. The Arkansas plan is the first to use Medicaid premium assistance on such a large scale.


Steve is Bloomberg BNA's senior congressional reporter for health care policy and has been with the company since 1988. He has covered every major piece of health care legislation to be considered by Congress in the last 20 years, including the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, the creation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He can be reached at