(AP photo/J. David Ake)

‘The Arkansas Department of Human Services says the state’s answer to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion program has been popular.

By March 31, 155,567 – 69 percent – of the 225,000 state residents eligible for the Private Option program had signed up, officials said Monday.

PPACA encourages states to use federal funding to make Medicaid available to all residents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,105 for a household of one.

Arkansas officials received permission from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to use the money that could have gone into Medicaid expansion to help residents pay the premiums for the commercial plans sold through the state’s public exchange.

Because of a drafting flaw, PPACA provides no exchange plan premium subsidies for consumers with incomes under 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

About 82 percent of the people using the Arkansas Private Option have incomes too low for them to qualify for ordinary PPACA premium subsidies, Arkansas officials say.

About 61 percent of the exchange enrollees who bought coverage through the Private Option program are women, and 64 percent are ages 19 to 44, officials say.

Enrollment could grow, because people who buy plan coverage through the Private Option program can apply at any time of the year, without having to contend with the ordinary plan open enrollment calendar system, officials say.

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