Arkansas Healthcare

A new study shows Arkansas outpaced the rest of the United States in reducing the percentage of uninsured residents during the first half of 2014.

The Gallup report released Tuesday says the rate of uninsured adults fell from 22.5 percent in 2013 to 12.4 percent in Arkansas by the middle of this year.

"It’s nice for Arkansas to be number one in the nation in something really, really good," said Gov. Mike Beebe, reacting to the report.

Arkansas is proposing requiring many participants in the state's compromise Medicaid expansion contribute monthly to health savings accounts and new limits on transportation for non-emergency services.

State officials on Friday released their proposed changes to the state's "private option," which was created last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Two public hearings are planned next week as the state is preparing to submit the proposal to the federal government in September.

UAMS campus
uams.edu / UAMS

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has opened a new neighborhood clinic in west Little Rock. 

UAMS campus
uams.edu / UAMS

Radiologists at the University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences are now using 3-D Mammogram technology that they say can uncover some previously undetectable breast cancers. Dr. Sharp Malak specializes in breast imaging at UAMS. He says traditional 2-D mammography couldn’t always detect every cancer and could sometimes detect abnormalities that end up being false positives. With the 3-D technology, known as Tomosynthesis, he says that has changed.

Arkansas’s eligibility for subsidies through the federal health exchange isn’t being immediately impacted by contradictory federal court rulings over the Affordable Care Act.

In one, a three judge panel in Washington, DC said subsidies that cover low income workers can only be paid in states that have set up their own insurance exchanges. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA came to the opposite conclusion.  Arkansas has not set up its own exchange.

The Arkansas Insurance Department says five insurance companies have signed up to offer policies through the state's federally arranged marketplace during 2015.

The companies are Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, Celtic Insurance Co., National Blue Cross Blue Shield Multi-State, QCH Health Plan Inc. and QualChoice Life and Health Insurance Co. Inc.

The Insurance Department said Wednesday that each plan must still be reviewed to determine whether they adequately meet the needs of would-be policy holders.

CHI St. Vincent says it will cut 157 positions system-wide after its acquisition of a hospital and clinic in Hot Springs.

The company announced Thursday that the job reductions include 91 layoffs, with the remainder of cuts occurring by leaving vacant jobs unfilled. The company acquired the 282-bed Mercy Hospital in Hot Springs in April.

Arkansas House and Senate leaders are counting votes for two bills aimed at addressing looming insurance increases for public school employees as they see whether there's enough support for a special session on the issue.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mike Ross is vowing to protect the state's compromise Medicaid expansion, while Republican rival Asa Hutchinson says data should drive the debate on the program next year.

The two ex-congressmen addressed the future of the "private option" Medicaid plan in separate speeches to the Delta Grassroots Caucus on Friday. Under the private option, Arkansas is using federal Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for the poor.

Beebe delta grassroots caucus
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Despite this week’s election defeat of a key supporter of Arkansas’s private option, the governor and a top legislative leader are hopeful the program will be renewed next year.

Speaking to the Delta Grassroots Caucus Thursday night, Gov. Mike Beebe said he believes arguments for the plan and the consequences of not taking federal money for the Medicaid expansion will sway lawmakers.

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