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AR Highlighted for Progress Reducing Uninsured Rates

Arkansas hospitals have been able to add services and medical personnel as a result of Medicaid expansion, unlike other rural areas in other states, where hospitals are closing. (Fleep Tuque/Flickr)
Arkansas hospitals have been able to add services and medical personnel as a result of Medicaid expansion, unlike other rural areas in other states, where hospitals are closing. (Fleep Tuque/Flickr)
September 28, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas' rural communities are seeing the benefits firsthand of the state expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, even as many other southern states opted against it.

The progress in reducing the number of uninsured Arkansans is highlighted in a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. It says small towns in states that expanded Medicaid have seen more than triple the rate of decline in their uninsured adult populations than those that did not expand.

Marquita Little Numan, health policy director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, says more people are getting health care.

"We've continued to see what the positive impact of the expansion has been for our state, especially in a lot of those small towns and rural areas, those low income adults in those communities, have continued to benefit greatly and have reduced rates of un-insurance," she states.

Rural Arkansas went from a 45 percent uninsured rate in 2009 to 22 percent. The report says Arkansas is one of the states that has seen the largest gains.

Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says there are other advantages associated with offering health coverage, particularly in small towns.

"There's so much research about this,” she points out. “So, from an economic perspective, having health insurance, having this Medicaid coverage, is really important in these rural areas, which are already struggling with higher rates of unemployment and poverty."

Numan adds that part of the economic benefit is keeping rural health care facilities afloat.

"We've seen a lot of hospitals be able to assist themselves, where we've seen a lot of hospital closures in many other states, because of the cost burden of treating people who are uninsured,” she points out. “That hasn't been the story in our state."

According to the report, one-fourth of those without coverage also are parents. Numerous studies indicate when parents lack health insurance, it impacts their children's health and well-being.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - AR