Arkansas Healthcare

Asa Hutchinson unveiling his thoughts on Medicaid expansion in early 2015.
Arkansas Times

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is hosting a town hall meeting next week as he tries to build support for his plan to keep the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion.

Hutchinson's office on Wednesday said the governor will host the town hall on his proposal to add new restrictions to the "private option," which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. Hutchinson, a Republican, has proposed renaming the program "Arkansas Works."

The town hall will be Tuesday night at Central Baptist College in Conway.

Jim Hendren
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers charged with issuing recommendations on the future of the state’s Medicaid expansion program voted Monday to back the Republican governor’s proposal to change and continue the Affordable Care Act-enabled plan that provides insurance to over 250,000 low-income residents. A series of bi-partisan votes have narrowly carried the program since its 2013 inception.

The convening of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force was planned as the penultimate meeting.

John Stephen Stephen Group
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The loss of the private option would have a $757 million impact on the state budget from 2017- 2021, legislators were told Monday morning.

Stephen Palmer with The Stephen Group, the consulting firm hired by the Health Reform Legislative Task Force, told legislators that ending the private option would result in an increase of $213 million in state expenditures over that five-year period. Meanwhile, ending it would reduce tax revenues by $544 million.

Arkansas Hospital and Pharmacist Associations are voicing opposition to increasing managed care in Arkansas, in advance of legislators’ vote on a range of Medicaid reforms expected Monday.

The associations say polling of Arkansas voters shows opposition to contracting with managed care companies, which claim to reduce costs and determine healthcare programs for patients. 

Brad Chism, of Chism Strategies, said likely voters responded negatively to managed care across ethnic and partisan lines. Surveyors spoke to 453 respondents. 

Asa Hutchinson healthcare
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Federal officials say they want to work with Gov. Asa Hutchinson on his plan to overhaul Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion but are expressing concerns about some of the restrictions potentially having "adverse impacts" on program participants.

Asa Hutchinson healthcare
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Governor Asa Hutchinson is defending Republican legislators backing his Medicaid expansion plan as early voting begins for Arkansas’s March 1 primary. 

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce for the first time is making independent expenditures in state legislative races. The expenditures are paying for mailers backing candidates who support Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Medicaid expansion plan, Arkansas Works.

Chamber President and CEO Randy Zook said Thursday that the expenditures were being made in “a couple, three Senate races; a couple, three House races.” He said the expenditures were being made to “people who have been targeted by other groups for defeat because of that single vote.”

Arkansas Surgeon General Gregory Bledsoe speaking at the winter meeting of the County Judges Association of Arkansas.
Association of Arkansas Counties

The surgeon general of Arkansas made the case to the County Judges Association of Arkansas at its winter meeting that continuing Medicaid expansion will help free up state funds for other programs, such as the governor's highway plan.

The president of the association, Judge David Hudson of Sebastian County, said the group may take a position before the special session on Medicaid expansion expected in April. 

File photo: Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters at the Capitol about his budget proposal.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that his main proposed changes to the private option remain intact after his recent discussions with federal Department of Health and Human Services Director Sylvia Burwell.

Also, he unveiled the state’s new brand direction for its economic development efforts: “Arkansas Inc. When you’re in Arkansas, you’re in good company.”

Hutchinson made the announcement at the 2016 Joint Winter Conference of the Arkansas Economic Developers and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Cindy Gillespie
C-SPAN

A former health care adviser to Mitt Romney has been named the new director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

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