Beebe Says Medicaid Shortfall Not as Large as Anticipated

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Governor Mike Beebe walked into his last, and some may argue most challenging, regular session State of the State address Tuesday to loud applause.

It's no surprise he quickly brought up Medicaid, but some new information about the previously estimated $138 million dollar shortfall was a surprise.

"After looming larger and larger, the size of our Medicaid shortfall does now appear to be shrinking," said Beebe.

Baby wouldn't reveal the new numbers just yet, but he called shortfall manageable and said Medicaid had seen the slowest growth in 25 years.

Following the surprise good news, Beebe{} made his big pitch for Medicaid expansion. He reminded state lawmakers they can't fix Washington's deficit, and he argued that refusing the money only hurts Arkansas.

"We don't need to sacrifice our share of the federal money to other states. Refusing money to help our people may make a statement to the federal government, but it will cost us more at home, will jeopardize the health of our fellow Arkansans, and won't solve the problems of our national counterparts," said Beebe.

House Speaker Davy Carter agrees Washington is out of Arkansas's hands, but he worries that Arkansas is not out of Washington's hands. He cautioned it only takes a compromise on the federal stage to stick the states with the bill.

"In that context, the federal deficit and debt does matter. It matters here. There aren't any guarantees that it's going to be a 90/10 split forever," said Carter.

With the bang of the gavel, the day adjourned, but the debate has just begun.

CONTINUING COVERAGEArk. Medicaid faces nearly $200M funding gap (Nov. 13)Ark. Medicaid faces 'significant' cuts in services (Nov. 13)Beebe: Medicaid expansion can spare nursing homes (Nov. 14)Ark. surgeon general addresses Medicaid expansion (Nov. 27)Beebe: Vote on Medicaid expansion during regular session (Jan. 3)Medicaid expansion hot topic leading up to general assembly (Jan. 7)Focus on Medicaid as Ark. session begins (Jan. 14)Beebe: Medicaid shortfall not as large as anticipated (Jan. 15)Ark. lawmakers seek more details on Medicaid (Jan. 17)Medicaid shortfall possibly $60 million less than expected (Jan. 17)Impact of Medicaid expansion on rural hospitals (Jan. 25)Ark. House GOP leader: Medicaid a work in progress (Jan. 28)Beebe: Don't delay Medicaid vote until next year (Feb. 11)Officials tout 'Medicaid contraction' (March 1)Ark. lawmakers approve contract on Medicaid (March 5)Ark. GOP leader floats special session on Medicaid (March 25)