Arkansas, like all other states in the union, is faced with significant decisions regarding full implementation of the ACA. These include: decisions surrounding implementation of the federally required health insurance exchange for those who qualify for subsidies to buy private health insurance coverage; and the pending state decision on whether or not to extend Medicaid benefits to those who qualify under the new federal law.
According to ACHI Director and Arkansas's Surgeon General, Dr. Joe Thompson, there is no question that assisting individuals in gaining financial access to health care will have a positive impact on the health of Arkansans. In fact, the study shows that as many as 2,300 lives will be saved each year due to increased insurance coverage. However, the question of how the expansion will impact the state's economy is more complex and requires comprehensive analysis, especially since implementation will require increased state expenditures.
"An important part of ACHI's mission is to provide an evidence base for policy decisions," Dr. Thompson said. "With so much at stake, we thought it important to provide a comprehensive, external economic impact analysis to examine the potential of increased coverage through both private insurance available through the exchange and the potential Medicaid expansion."
Methodology used for the RAND study differs from those used by the Arkansas Department of Human Services and by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration in the agencies' earlier projections. However, conclusions are similar. Full implementation of the ACA will net a positive economic impact for Arkansas.
The RAND study projects economic impact as of 2016, when the individual and employer mandates could be fully realized. Taking into account expenditures the state would have to make for full implementation, ACA reductions in funding to hospitals for uncompensated care and the inflow of federal funding, the study projects a net increase on Arkansas's gross domestic product (GDP) of $550 million annually, along with the creation of an estimated 6,200 jobs. The study further projects the impact for each Arkansas county in 2016, including estimates for additional revenue and new enrollment.
By 2016, if the ACA is fully implemented, the Rand study projects 400,000 Arkansans to be newly covered either through Medicaid or through the purchase of private coverage through the insurance exchange. If the state does not move forward with full implementation the study estimates that 571,000 Arkansans will be uninsured.
"This independent assessment of what full implementation of increased coverage options through the ACA offers Arkansans validates a call for action. Not only would we save lives, but we would also stabilize our health care system and benefit our economy. It also would help our state catch up to what other states already offer their citizens through the Medicaid program." Thompson said.
The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement is a non-partisan, independent health policy center dedicated to improving the health of Arkansans. It is jointly supported by the Arkansas Department of Health, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Delta Dental of Arkansas.
RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation, is the nation's largest independent health policy research program, with a broad research portfolio that focuses on health care costs, quality and public health preparedness, among other topics. The report was independently released by RAND.
The full report can be found at www.achi.net, along with additional information on the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement and our state's health system improvement initiative.
Click here to read the full RAND Report.