Proposed health care mandates in Arkansas add up. Here's why that's bad news.
3 min read

Proposed health care mandates in Arkansas add up. Here's why that's bad news.

Safety Net
Mar 27
3 min read

Buried behind the top-line bills that have dominated the Arkansas legislative session are several proposed mandates and regulations on health care services. Some of these affect taxpayer-funded coverage, like Medicaid, while others impact private insurance—and some affect both.

On their own, these bills may not seem especially concerning. But looking at them in total, their potential impact on taxpayers certainly raises eyebrows.

Proposed Medicaid mandates

There have been a plethora of bills filed this legislative session to mandate that taxpayers provided even more services for Medicaid enrollees. Here are just a few:

  • SB139, which would provide Medicaid coverage for prescription digital therapeutics at a state cost of $5.3 million annually;
  • SB92, which would set Medicaid reimbursement rates for orthotics and prosthetics ("No immediate fiscal impact," according to the state, but there will be some in the future);
  • And SB236, which would require taxpayers via Medicaid to reimburse prescribed pediatric extended care centers—which may sound like a good idea, but would cost the state alone more than $4 billion annually, which is more than total state income tax revenue.

Proposed private insurance mandates

Not to be outdone by new Medicaid mandates, lawmakers are also proposing a slough of new private insurance mandates. For example:

  • SB119, which would extend payments for health care services performed by outpatient surgery centers;
  • SB181, which would extend coverage for immunoglobulin treatments;
  • And SB143, which would exempt certain providers from prior authorizations.

Regrettably, many of these private insurance mandates will also directly impact Medicaid costs: because Arkansas chose to expand Obamacare to able-bodied adults by giving them private insurance plans, taxpayers will get to pick up the tab for these new private insurance mandates as well.

(Since expansion began, private insurance premiums have already doubled.)

And that's not even accounting for the increased burden on every Arkansan with private insurance through the form of higher premiums.

These are just a sample of the roughly three dozen proposed health care mandates that are under consideration in the Arkansas legislature. And while improving the quality of health care services is a noble goal, ensuring we do so in a fiscally responsible manner that doesn’t massively spike taxpayer spending or insurance premiums is just as critical.

Arkansas already faces challenges with health care costs due to an even-more-expensive version of Medicaid expansion, burdensome Certificate of Need (CON) laws, and much more.

Additional requirements from the state might sound appealing or "compassionate" on the surface, but these mandates are not without consequences. They will only push health care cost containment further out of reach.

Policymakers should be cautious about expanding more mandates in Arkansas’s health care sector, both public and private. This can and should start with scrutinizing proposed requirements from Little Rock.

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Image of the story authorHayden Dublois
Visiting Economist

Hayden Dublois is the Visiting Economist at Opportunity Arkansas. His primary research areas are welfare, health care, workforce, unemployment, and tax policy.

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