The Deal: Arkansas would be allowed to send its Medicaid enrollees to the (private insurance) exchange.
Avik Roy summarizes the case for doing that:
There are a lot of reasons why Medicaid provides low-quality coverage with poor access to physicians and enormous amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse. One of the biggest is that Medicaid requires almost nothing of its enrollees in terms of cost-sharing: co-pays, deductibles, and the like. Because Medicaid patients have no financial incentive to avoid wasteful consumption of medical services, they often over-use the emergency room — where the co-pay is usually less than $5 — and other costly facilities.
In addition, “any willing provider” rules prevent the government, or even private insurers managing Medicaid patients, from organizing their provider networks to steer these patients to hospitals and doctors who provide cost-efficient care.
By contrast, insurers on the exchanges can compete on just this basis: by tiering co-pays so as to steer patients to higher-quality, lower-cost doctors and hospitals. By charging higher fees for non-urgent use of the emergency room, and higher co-pays for using branded drugs where cheaper generic ones will work just as well. These are all things that Medicaid, as it’s currently designed, can’t do, even if the Medicaid “benefit” is managed by private insurers, as it already is with two-thirds of Medicaid enrollees.
The Fine Print: For Medicaid enrollees the exchange will be a faux exchange. No additional cost sharing will be allowed. No tiering. Any willing provider rules remain in force.
So, while carriers on the faux-exchanges will be pitted against each other in a thing that some will call “competition,” there will be little room for plans to actually compete with one another.