Arkansas Healthcare

Asa Hutchinson unveiling his thoughts on Medicaid expansion in early 2015.
Arkansas Times

Non-profit workers in Arkansas who assist people with sorting through healthcare options are experiencing a rise in calls following a push by the state to re-determine Medicaid coverage. By the end of this month 48,000 people could lose coverage through the verification process.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) discussing changes to eligibility verification for Medicaid in the Governor's Conference Room at the Capitol in early August.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas’s move to pare down its Medicaid rolls is hitting pause, for two weeks, as the Department of Human Services tries to catch up to a backlog of responses from residents trying to verify incomes.

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on Tuesday he is ending a hiring freeze at DHS and paying for overtime until the determination effort can be brought up to speed.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has hired a staffer for fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton as his new senior health policy adviser.

Hutchinson's office on Monday announced he had hired John Martin to the post, starting Sept. 8. Martin is currently Cotton's deputy legislative director, which he has advised the freshman senator on domestic policy issues such as health care and agriculture.

Martin previously worked on former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson's unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid in Wisconsin and also has worked as a consultant for Deloitte.

The number of enrollees in Arkansas’ private option shrunk by about 26,500 at midnight July 31 because those former beneficiaries did not respond to requests by the Department of Human Services for information about changes to their incomes.

According to Amy Webb, DHS spokesperson, the estimate is based on information provided to insurance carriers July 21. The information was provided to the carriers so they could try to contact their private option beneficiaries to encourage them to respond to the requests, and so they could be certain not to pay claims after July 31.

The number of Arkansans deemed eligible for health care coverage through the state’s expansion of Medicaid – known as the private option – continues to tick up, rising to 259,335 in June. That’s up 4,586 people from May according to information released by the state Department of Human Services on Monday.

Arkansas is one of only a few states that does not have its own dental school. That could change in a few years, as UAMS is exploring that option. But it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be cheap.

“If everything went as quickly as it could go, I would say it’s at least three years from now until a student would actually enroll,” said Dr. Dan Rahn, UAMS chancellor.

The University of Arkansas Eleanor Mann School of Nursing has received a $1 million federal grant to increase the number of advanced practice registered nurses.
The grant will be paid over three years for the program that's aimed at helping meet the health and wellness needs of Arkansas' medically underserved populations.

Health Care Task Force Chair, Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) during a break in the meeting.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Investing in better case management and healthcare coordination for Arkansas’s high cost patient populations is an important step if Arkansas wants to lower overall healthcare spending. That’s according to a report presented Wednesday to the Health Care Task Force by its consultant the Stephen Group.

Managing Partner John Stephen told lawmakers Arkansas’s investment falls short.

Voters in Crittenden County have approved a 1 percent sales tax to help reopen the county hospital that closed last year because of money woes.

The proposal raises the county sales tax from 1.75 percent to 2.75 percent. It passed by a vote of 2,846 to 439 in Tuesday's special election and is in addition to a 6.5 percent state sales tax.

County Judge Woody Wheeless says this is one of two steps needed before Nashville, Tennessee-based Ameris Health Systems can reopen the hospital. Ameris must also settle about $7 million in secured debt against the property.

Office of the Governor

More than 15,000 individuals have lost state government health benefits because their family incomes vary at least 10% from their original applications and they did not respond to government requests to verify their incomes.

That’s according to a letter sent to lawmakers by Gov. Asa Hutchinson Monday. Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, posted the letter to his Twitter feed.