Arkansas Healthcare

The number of Arkansans deemed eligible for health care coverage through the state’s expansion of Medicaid – known as the private option – continues to tick up, rising to 259,335 in June. That’s up 4,586 people from May according to information released by the state Department of Human Services on Monday.

Arkansas is one of only a few states that does not have its own dental school. That could change in a few years, as UAMS is exploring that option. But it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be cheap.

“If everything went as quickly as it could go, I would say it’s at least three years from now until a student would actually enroll,” said Dr. Dan Rahn, UAMS chancellor.

The University of Arkansas Eleanor Mann School of Nursing has received a $1 million federal grant to increase the number of advanced practice registered nurses.
The grant will be paid over three years for the program that's aimed at helping meet the health and wellness needs of Arkansas' medically underserved populations.

Health Care Task Force Chair, Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) during a break in the meeting.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Investing in better case management and healthcare coordination for Arkansas’s high cost patient populations is an important step if Arkansas wants to lower overall healthcare spending. That’s according to a report presented Wednesday to the Health Care Task Force by its consultant the Stephen Group.

Managing Partner John Stephen told lawmakers Arkansas’s investment falls short.

Voters in Crittenden County have approved a 1 percent sales tax to help reopen the county hospital that closed last year because of money woes.

The proposal raises the county sales tax from 1.75 percent to 2.75 percent. It passed by a vote of 2,846 to 439 in Tuesday's special election and is in addition to a 6.5 percent state sales tax.

County Judge Woody Wheeless says this is one of two steps needed before Nashville, Tennessee-based Ameris Health Systems can reopen the hospital. Ameris must also settle about $7 million in secured debt against the property.

Office of the Governor

More than 15,000 individuals have lost state government health benefits because their family incomes vary at least 10% from their original applications and they did not respond to government requests to verify their incomes.

That’s according to a letter sent to lawmakers by Gov. Asa Hutchinson Monday. Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, posted the letter to his Twitter feed.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff has received initial approval for its pre-licensure nursing program from the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.

The school announced that enrollment in the program will be open for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year and prospective students who have completed the required prerequisite general education courses can submit applications.

School officials say the addition of the nursing program is among the recent academic improvements it has made within the past year on campus.

Health insurers are asking state regulators for large rate increases for next year, citing losses caused by higher-than-expected patient utilization and a sicker than expected risk pool, the New York Times reported July 4. However, in Arkansas that may not be the case.

Arkansas should continue its efforts to establish a state-based insurance exchange, the executive director of the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace said Monday, even though a recent Supreme Court ruling makes it less necessary to do so.

The director of a state board says Arkansas' work toward setting up its own insurance exchange will give the state more flexibility as it looks at changes to its Medicaid system.

Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Executive Director Cheryl Smith Gardner told a legislative panel that there are many benefits to the state moving forward with its own marketplace for consumers to purchase insurance policies under the federal health law. Arkansas is currently using the federal exchange, but has been given preliminary approval to switch to a state exchange.