Ark. to Extend Insurance Program to Low-Income Workers

March 8, 2006

The Bush administration has approved an Arkansas program to offer insurance to thousand of low-income workers, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Huckabee said.

Huckabee was scheduled to announce the plan, expected to affect 80,000 low-income, uninsured Arkansans, at a news conference at the capitol March 7.

The program will be carried out under a waiver allowing the state to use Medicaid money for the coverage.

Details of the plan were first reported in the Mar. 7 New York Times. Huckabee press secretary Alice Stewart would not answer any questions about the program’s details.

The state is expected to enroll at least 50,000 workers with incomes less than twice the federal poverty level and 30,000 workers with higher incomes.

Huckabee told the Times that employers would have to contribute $15 a month for each employee with income less than twice the poverty level and $100 a month for higher-income workers. The governor said the new program would help small businesses that currently offer no health insurance.

The program is based on legislation passed by Arkansas lawmakers last year that said the state would help pay for the benefits with proceeds from the tobacco settlement fund.

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