Arkansas Healthcare

The Arkansas Department of Human Service says nearly 205,000 people have enrolled in the state's Medicaid expansion program that extends health care coverage to low-income residents.

The department announced Wednesday that 204,811 people had completed enrollment in the "private option" program as of Sept. 30. That's an increase of more than 10,000 from the Aug. 31 tally.

The agency says the majority of enrollees are between the ages of 19 and 44.

Department of Human Services Director John Selig
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A recent push by disability rights advocates for more home-based care was delayed Thursday at least until next year. Currently the disabled are provided coverage through Medicaid in institutional settings like nursing homes and Human Development Centers.

The Community First Choice Option, or CFCO, would allow people to choose between institutional care and care at home.

At a committee meeting state health officials said they’d wait until January to ask for the change because of concerns expressed by some legislators.

Health officials on Thursday announced that insurance rates for 2015 will be released ahead of schedule. Earlier this week every member of Arkansas’s House delegation signed onto a letter urging state health officials to provide details about what health insurance rates will be in 2015.

Arkansas is asking the federal government to allow changes to the state's compromise Medicaid expansion that would require some participants to contribute monthly to health savings accounts and would impose new limits on transportation for non-emergency services.

The state Department of Human Services on Monday submitted its proposal to change the "private option" program. The program uses federal Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. It was created last year as an alternative to the Medicaid expansion envisioned under the federal health law.

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.