Arkansas Healthcare

A Jonesboro orthodontist is suing the Arkansas Dental Examiners Board over a claim that barring him from offering stand-alone basic services like cleanings and X-rays is unconstitutional.

Lawyers for Dr. Benjamin Burris on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit in Little Rock that names the dental board and its members.

Bryan King Joe Farrer private option
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A group of Arkansas legislators who have opposed the private option say they’ll ask a legislative committee next month to authorize another analysis of the financial impact of the program.

Republican state Sen. Bryan King of Green Forest says he’s concerned that the program, which uses federal Medicaid money to buy private insurance for low income Arkansans, is on track to cost the state significantly more than had been projected.

DHS Director John Selig, Director Division of Medical Services Andy Allison.
Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

The director of Arkansas' Medicaid office who led implementation of the private option is leaving his position.

Andy Allison has been state Medicaid director since 2011. The Department of Human Services announced Friday that Allison would leave, as of June 1 to pursue other opportunities.

Allison has led the Medicaid program through adoption of the private option health insurance program, which the Legislature created to accommodate President Barack Obama's Medicaid expansion plan.

More than 43,000 Arkansans have picked health plans on the new insurance markets created by the federal health overhaul.

The federal government said Thursday that 43,446 Arkansas residents signed up between Oct. 1, 2013 and March 31.

Previous enrollment figures found that more than 33,500 residents had already picked out a plan through the exchange, an online marketplace where consumers can compare and shop for policies.

State officials had anticipated 250,000 residents to have signed up.

This week’s nationwide release of data on doctors’ Medicare billing fees has many cheering the cause of making the costs associated with healthcare more transparent. The release also heralds a future of greater transparency as to how healthcare is delivered and assessed, according to Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson.

In Arkansas, numbers show oncologists, ophthalmologists and ambulance services tend to receive the most in Medicare payments. Thompson said he welcomes the greater transparency in healthcare costs but warns that the numbers could be taken out of context.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider its decision tossing out a $1.2 billion judgment against drugmaker Johnson & Johnson over the marketing of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

McDaniel on Monday filed a petition for rehearing over the high court's decision last month that the state misapplied the Medicaid fraud law in its suit against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc.

The former director of Utah's health insurance exchange has been named director of the organization that's exploring whether to create a state-run insurance exchange in Arkansas.

Cheryl Smith will begin work next month for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace.

Arkansas has partnered with the federal government to run its exchange, but the state is exploring whether to establish its own state-run insurance marketplace.

Arkansas officials say more than 33,500 people have signed up for the health insurance exchange set up under the federal health law, well below the numbers they hoped to see before the enrollment deadline next week.

State officials on Thursday said the signup for the exchange, a marketplace where consumers can select health plans, has lagged in comparison to enrollments in the state's "private option" compromise Medicaid expansion.

Arkansas lawmakers are discussing the progress of the compromise on Medicaid expansion that they just reauthorized for another year.

The House and Senate public health committees were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the "private option" plan to use federal Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for the poor. Approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health overhaul, the program was reauthorized by the Legislature during the session that ended earlier this month.

The deadline to sign up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace is nearing. Those seeking to enroll have until next Monday, March 31, or they may face a fine.

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