Harmony Health Clinic, a free clinic that serves only uninsured people with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level, has seen a sharp drop in its patient population since Arkansas implemented its Medicaid expansion this year.
Last year, Harmony's clientele had swelled to 2,000 patients. Now, following the expansion of Medicaid to adults earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, it expects to have about 500 uninsured patients from here on out. “We'll still be here,” said Eddie Pannell, Harmony's executive director. “We have people come in the door every day asking, 'Can I come see the doctor?' ”
That reduction is a sign of Arkansas' success in expanding health coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The state has seen the steepest drop in the rate of uninsured in the country—from 22.5% to 12.4%, according to Gallup. Roughly 250,000 residents have gained coverage through the federal insurance exchange, mostly due to the innovative Medicaid expansion negotiated by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe with the Republican-controlled Legislature.
David Deere, executive director of Partners for Inclusive Communities, a Little Rock-based not-for-profit that has worked on enrollment efforts, said he was “amazed” at the state's success. “A year ago, if you had told me we would have that kind of success, I would have asked what you've been smoking.”