Admissions of uninsured patients to Arkansas hospitals decreased by 48.7 percent in 2014, the first year of the Medicaid expansion program known as the private option, the Arkansas Hospital Association said.
The association said that according to a survey of more than 80 percent of hospitals in the state, 11,698 uninsured patients were admitted for inpatient care in 2014, down from 22,786 in 2013.
Similarly the number of uninsured patients seen in the hospitals’, outpatient clinics decreased by 45.7 percent in 2014. In the hospitals’ emergency rooms, where overall visits increased by 5 percent last year, the number of uninsured patients seeking care decreased by 38.8 percent.
The association said the reduction in uninsured patients translated into a $149 million, or 55.1 percent, reduction in uncompensated care losses among the responding hospitals in 2014 compared to 2013.
“The reduction is helping hospitals as they struggle to offset the continued effects of harsh Medicare payment cuts established in recent years,” the association said in a news release.
The survey was conducted by the Arkansas Chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the Arkansas Hospital Association in April.
In January 2014, Arkansas began using federal Medicaid money to subsidize private health insurance for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The program, known as the private option, is Arkansas’ alternative to the expansion of state Medicaid rolls that was envisioned in the federal Affordable Care Act.
By the end of June, 254,749 Arkansans had applied and been found eligible for the private option, and 218,376 had completed enrollment, according to the state Department of Human Services.
Earlier this year, the state Legislature voted to end the private option at the end of 2016. A legislative task force is looking for a new model that can replace the program starting in 2017.