Gov. Asa Hutchinson offered a steady dose of good news concerning the state’s healthcare marketplace on Friday (Aug. 3), highlighted by new year-ending data showing Medicaid spending in Arkansas in fiscal 2018 was flat or near negative growth for the first time in recent memory.
“Today, I am pleased to emphasize the point that Medicaid spending has had a zero percent growth rate (in 2018), which is the only time in Arkansas history that has happened,” Hutchinson told reporters at a pen-and-pad press availability at his State Capitol office.
The year-end update by Hutchinson, with Department of Human Services Director Cindy Gillespie at his side, confirms projections by DHS in February that state Medicaid spending was more than $400 million below baseline five-year projections halfway through the administration’s government “transformation” efforts.
The Medicaid transformation effort was created after Hutchinson and a legislative task force set a goal of reducing Medicaid spending increases by at least $835 million from fiscal years 2017-2021. For the fiscal year ended July 31, Hutchinson and Gillespie reported savings of $22 million compared to the previous year.
Hutchinson noted that the year-end snapshot of Medicaid spending is also the first time the state has seen a dip in Medicaid spending since 2013. He further emphasized that the lower spending did not mean there has been a decline in services.
“This is not a change in services, this is simply the result of people that are working (and) the decline in the number of Arkansas Works and the traditional Medicaid, and our transformation efforts that have been successful in savings and this is a reflection of that,” said the governor, citing the state’s low unemployment rate at 3.8%.