Arkansas Healthcare

Governor Mike Beebe
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Mike Beebe dismissed concerns over a report this week by the Government Accountability Office saying Arkansas’s private option plan will cost the federal government more than had been estimated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which approved the program.

Auditors had said the state’s alternative Medicaid expansion program will not be “revenue-neutral” compared to a standard Medicaid expansion under the federal healthcare law.

An screenshot from near its launch.

A joint effort of non-governmental organizations under the name Arkansans For Coverage launched an effort Tuesday to help people enroll in health care plans made available through the Affordable Care Act. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is among five groups in the joint effort to assist with navigating the health insurance marketplace or exchange.

AACF Executive Director Rich Huddleston said a vote by the state legislature earlier this year blocking state-funded outreach efforts makes this effort necessary.

Government auditors say Arkansas' private option Medicaid plan will cost taxpayers an extra $778 million over the next three years rather than being "revenue-neutral" to the federal budget.

The Department of Health and Human Services disagreed with the findings, which were released Monday. It said the federal Government Accountability Office didn't take into consideration major program changes within Arkansas' Medicaid system.

Arkansas Private Option Enrollment Keeps Growing

Sep 8, 2014

Almost 200,000 people have signed up for the Medicaid expansion program—the “Private Option”—aimed at extending health care coverage to low-income Arkansans.

Arkansas Department of Human Services said Monday that 194,257 people have completed enrollment.

Spokeswoman Amy Webb said they expect the number to continue to increase.

“From our perspective interest in the program continues to be strong and we think the private option is working as it was anticipated,” she said.

The governor's office says Arkansas' health insurance premiums under the "private option" Medicaid expansion are projected to decrease by 2 percent next year. In a Tuesday news release, the governor's office said there won't be a blanket reduction - some premiums may rise slightly and others may stay the same or go down.

Overall, policyholders will pay 2 percent less in the coming year. The governor's office says it is releasing the projection because incomplete information was mistakenly posted on a state Insurance Department website.

Officials say the Crittenden Regional Hospital in West Memphis will stop admitting patients Monday and close down permanently on Sept. 7. The hospital says it's faced financial troubles caused by a drop in patients and reimbursements.

Officials also cited several physician departures and two recent fires that damaged the facility as reasons for the closure.

90 Percent Want Care Other Than At A Nursing Home

A survey released Tuesday from AARP finds 91 percent of Arkansans age 50 and older have a desire for services to shift to at-home care rather than at institutions like nursing homes.

Herb Sanderson with AARP Arkansas said state and federal spending on long-term care is an issue the organization for seniors would like to see addressed by electoral candidates.

AARP Poll Results In US Senate Race

The AARP released poll results Monday showing Arkansans age 50 and older are experiencing a high level of anxiety about retirement issues, and in the race for the U.S. Senate, a slim margin of voters prefer Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor over Republican challenger Tom Cotton.

48 percent support Pryor while 43 percent support Cotton. The margin of error is 2.9 percent. 9 percent were undecided. The survey did not ask about Libertarian Nathan LaFrance or Green Mark Swaney.

The number of Arkansans enrolled in the private option continues to grow. The Arkansas Department of Human Services said Friday that as of the end of July,192,210 had been determined eligible for the program. Spokeswoman Amy Webb says of those, about 183,000 have completed the enrollment process.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R) at Little Rock's VA Hospital
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Senator John Boozman is touting a $16.3 billion Veterans Affairs package signed into law this week as an important move toward resolving systemic problems uncovered in April. 

Boozman met with medical center officials at Little Rock’s John L. McLellan Memorial Veterans Hospital Friday. The Republican from Rogers says he’s confident the state’s VA hospitals in Little Rock and Fayetteville are performing well and that reforms will prove beneficial.