Arkansas Healthcare

Baptist Health Medical Center

Some Arkansas doctors are concerned about an effort that would allow non-physician personnel to broaden their scope of practice into areas previously only available to licensed physicians. / Arkansas Insurance Department

Four of the five insurers offering policies on Arkansas' insurance marketplace next year under the federal health law have proposed rate increases of at least 10 percent.

The Arkansas Insurance Department on Tuesday said QualChoice Life and Health, QCA Health Plan Inc., Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association have each proposed the rate increases. The department says Ambetter has proposed a rate increase below 10 percent.

The Collaborative

Arkansas has enrolled the lowest percentage of healthcare exchange-eligible residents of any state nationwide, according to analysis done by a consortium of researchers from Rhode Island universities.

According to Robert Hackey, a professor of Health Policy and Management at Providence College, the Kaiser Family Foundation data shows only 19 percent of eligible Arkansans enrolled.

Unity Health, a Searcy-based health system, announced Thursday that it is the first medical provider in Arkansas to join the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

The arrangement means Unity Health doctors will have access to electronic consulting with physicians with the Mayo Clinic, one of the country’s top-ranked medical providers by U.S. News & World Report. Patient medical information such as MRI scans will be transmitted to those doctors. Unity Health also will have access to the AskMayoExpert database with information on disease management and care guidelines.

Cindy Gillespie

Cindy Gillespie heads the Arkansas Department of Human Services, a sprawling agency in charge of traditional Medicaid; Arkansas Works; and the state’s 4,900 foster children, among other areas. The Georgia native began working at DHS March 1 and will be paid a salary of $280,000, which is $119,000 more than her predecessor, John Selig.

As a senior adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, she played a leading role in the development of that state’s health reforms. She earlier helped plan the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games.

Arkansas Senate
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers are to formally adjourn the bi-annual fiscal session of the legislature Monday, with a general consensus that it was a productive, bi-partisan effort.

Last week included passage of a formal budget for the coming fiscal year. The start of the session saw debate and eventually approval of legislation to allow Arkansas to accept federal healthcare dollars to continue the state's Medicaid expansion plan, providing coverage for more than a quarter million low income residents.

Steps leading up the Arkansas Senate chamber.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

An attempt in the Arkansas Senate on Tuesday to override Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto – that allowed for Medicaid expansion to continue – failed on a voice vote. Many on both sides expected the veto override move to fall short of the needed majority since nearly all of the lawmakers who sent the budget bill to the governor's desk- knowing in advance he planned to veto the provision that would end Medicaid expansion - were supporters of his Arkansas Works plan.

Arkansas House of Representatives.

Governor Asa Hutchinson used a line item veto on Thursday afternoon to ensure the continuation of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. The veto was part of a procedural maneuver meant to work around the resistance of a minority of Republicans blocking funding for the insurance program. It benefits over 267,000 low-income Arkansans.

Earlier on Thursday, the House of Representatives narrowly secured the three-fourths vote the funding bill needed for passage on a 76-13 vote.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has approved the wording of a measure to limit lawsuit damages awarded against health care providers, clearing the way for supporters to try and put the proposal on the November ballot. 

The floor of the Arkansas Senate.

The Arkansas Senate has approved a plan to preserve the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion, backing an unusual tactic that required supporters to initially vote to end the subsidized health coverage.