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Talk Biz: A Shift in Healthcare Debate at the State Capitol

Roby Brock with the Talk Business blog chats with Good Day's Deedra Wilson about topics from the Arkansas Legislature.
When we want to get the latest in business and politics in Arkansas, we always turn to Roby Brock, editor of the Talk Business blog.

This morning he chats with Good Day's Deedra Wilson about a shift in the healthcare debate at the State Capitol where the Arkansas Legislature is in regular session.

There has been a shift in the health care debate at the capitol. What has changed?
Legislators were discussing how to expand the state's Medicaid program by adding as many as 250,000 uninsured people onto the Medicaid program who fit a low income profile. What has changed is that the governor met with federal officials who have said the state could use that same pot of money, but let it subsidize health insurance plans in a private insurance exchange. The net effect is that instead of having to get on Medicaid, you might find affordable health insurance options through more than one provider.

How will that impact the average viewer?
A household of 4 people making under $32,000/year, you're going to be in that low income category. You probably have a tough time finding health insurance. There's going to potentially be options for you, if the legislature can work out a plan to make this happen. You might qualify for a plan for free or next to nothing; you might be subsidized, meaning you have to pay some and the government pays some; or you might have small co-pays to be able to use your insurance. If your options right now are "no insurance," this could be a good deal for you.

Does any of this have an impact on the economy?
It does in a couple of different ways. First, we're talking over a 3-year period about billions of dollars in Arkansas. That's money that will go to hospitals, medical clinics, and, in turn, pay salaries and make investments, especially in rural communities that are struggling with health care options.

Secondly, money turns over in an economy. Imagine billions of dollars coming into the state and local economy. That's money that's going to eventually be spent on dining out, shopping at local stores, buying houses or doing a renovation project.

By some estimates, this health care option the legislature is discussing could  bring in an additional $300-$400 per person per county each year = $900 million in first year.
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