The political impasse was broken last spring, when a group of business-friendly Republican senators led a drive to expand Medicaid through private insurance policies purchased on the state's new public exchange, Arkansas Health Connector.
The "private option" for Medicaid expansion has since become a rallying cry for expansion advocates in nearly two dozen states where Republican lawmakers have been blocking expansion of the program. Last month, New Hampshire became the latest state to adopt Medicare expansion, again with Republican senators taking up the private option banner.
State Sen. Jonathan Dismang, who helped lead the GOP effort to enact private option Medicaid expansion in Arkansas, told me last week that The Natural State has shown the country how to make the difficult compromises necessary to advance healthcare reform. "We would like to transform Medicaid. We have something that can be replicated in other states," he said. "I feel good about what we've done."
I feel good about it, too. Arkansas is showing the country that it is possible to tear down the political and economic barriers to healing what ails US healthcare.