Arkansas Healthcare

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.

State Rep. John Hutchison (R-Harrisburg)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas legislators were briefed Thursday in advance of open-enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace, which becomes available on November 15th. 200,000 plus people in the private option and nearly 40,000 people earning above 138 percent of the poverty level using the exchange will be able to re-enroll. Enrollment will also be available to those who are not already participating in the healthcare exchange

Cindy Crone with the Arkansas Insurance Department says consumers should update their information on

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.