Arkansas Healthcare

A map showing the extent of flu activitiy in each U.S. state
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

Arkansas may be on track to see a flu season just as bad, if not worse, than the 2013-14 season. The Arkansas Department of Health says so far, there have been 12 confirmed flu-related deaths. At least six of those were people over the age of 65. Spokeswoman Kerry Krell says the pattern is widespread.

“Predominantly this season we're seeing H3N2,” she says. “It is notorious for causing a lot of illness; causing a lot of hospitalizations, especially in the elderly population.”

Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson has named Dr. Gregory Bledsoe to be the state’s next surgeon general. Hutchinson made the announcement Tuesday that Bledsoe, the son of a state senator and chair of an Alabama emergency medical center, will replace Dr. Joe Thompson as the state’s surgeon general.

Hutchinson’s communication director J.R. Davis said the incoming governor is personally familiar with Bledsoe, a graduate of UAMS.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The head of the state Senate and an architect of Arkansas' "private option" Medicaid plan says legislators are weighing changes to the system that will test how much flexibility the federal government will allow.

Under Arkansas' version of Medicaid expansion, the state uses federal money to buy private insurance for low-income residents. Senate President Jonathan Dismang has said the program will have to change dramatically in order to survive another year after several candidates who vowed to end the program were elected last month.

Governor elect Asa Hutchinson's recent announcement that he will appoint State Representative Allen Kerr to be Arkansas's next Insurance Commissioner could weigh significantly on the fate of Arkansas's Private Option.

With a Legislative session less than a month away, speculation about what will become of the private option hasn't included a specific plan from anyone, but there is wide-felt certainty that the new administration will bring changes.

Arkansas' attorney general says health care workers from Pulaski and Phillips counties have been arrested for alleged Medicaid fraud.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Tuesday authorities had arrested 53-year-old Patricia Sylvester of Marvell and 36-year-old Stephanie Simpson of North Little Rock.

Tens of thousands of Arkansans are expected to take part in the open enrollment period under the federal Affordable Care Act that begins this weekend.

Open enrollment begins Saturday and lasts until Feb. 15. Residents can enroll in the health marketplace, renew or change their plan options during this period.

The state says more than 44,000 residents enrolled in the health care marketplace for 2014 plans.

State legislators on Thursday considered the future of a healthcare policy that would allow funding for the disabled to be used for home-based and community care instead of only institutional settings. The Community First Choice Option, or CFCO, is part of the Affordable Care Act that each state has to authorize to implement.

Outgoing Gov. Mike Beebe is recommending an additional $84.2 million in state funding for Arkansas' Medicaid program and $60 million from state surplus funds if lawmakers move forward with tax cuts approved last year.

Beebe's administration on Wednesday presented two budget recommendations for the state's Medicaid program, depending on whether lawmakers decide to let the tax cuts take effect. Beebe, a Democrat who is leaving office in January due to term limits, has recommended delaying about $26 million worth of tax cuts that are to take effect in July.

An screenshot from near its launch.

Enrollment in the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace, created by the Affordable Care Act, will re-open Saturday. The Affordable Care Act established the health insurance exchange where shoppers can navigate plans and calculate subsidies for coverage based on income.

Leonard Stern works with the non-profit Future Builders to assist people enrolling in the healthcare exchange. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families partially funds the effort. Stern said unlike last year things are expected to run smoothly online.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Gov
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson says it will be January at the earliest before he decides whether to push for continuing the state’s Medicaid expansion program.