LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A government agency survey says the percentage of Arkansas residents with health care insurance is on the rise, putting the state above the national average. The number of uninsured residents dropped last year by almost 46,000 to nearly 231,800, according to the survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The state ranked 25th in the percentage of residents with coverage last year, an improvement from 2015 when the state ranked 30th.
“Those are strong numbers for the state, and actually may represent a first time ever on a health indicator that we are above the national average,” Joe Thompson, director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said.
Officials attribute the improvement in enrollment to the state’s expanded Medicaid program, which covers more than 330,000 people in Arkansas. Nearly 464,600 people, about 16 percent of the state’s residents, were uninsured in 2013, before the expanded program took effect.
The program extended coverage to adults with incomes of up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. That’s an individual with an income of more than $16,600, or a family of four with an income of more than $33,900, under this year’s guidelines. Last year, enrollment among eligible adults increased by more than 70,000, to over 330,000.
Arkansas Hospital Association Chief Executive Bo Ryall said the expanded program has had a “tremendous impact” on hospitals by reducing the amount of unreimbursed care they provide to the uninsured. The percentage of residents who remain uninsured is highest among those with low incomes.