Arkansas Healthcare

The owner of two Arkansas mental health companies that provide services for juveniles has pleaded not guilty to charges that he bribed a former top official of the state's Human Services Department.

Ted Suhl pleaded not guilty in federal court Friday to conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud, three counts of honest services fraud, one count of federal funds bribery and one count of interstate travel in aid of bribery. A jury trial is scheduled for Jan. 19.

Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe during a Health Care Task Force meeting.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A panel studying the future of Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion is shifting its focus to finding savings in the state's Medicaid program after issuing its preliminary report.

The Health Reform Legislative Task Force on Thursday approved its report on the "private option," which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. The panel on Wednesday endorsed Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's efforts to change and rename the program, which was crafted as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (left) and DHS Director John Selig presenting changes to Medicaid expansion in December.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Arkansas’s Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson is moving forward with Medicaid expansion and seeking federal approval for new adjustments to what has been known as the private option. The Health Care Task Force endorsed Hutchinson’s proposal Wednesday.

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

A task force is finalizing its recommendations on the future of Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion, which the state's Republican governor has said he wants to keep but with new restrictions on its benefits and eligibility.

The Health Reform Legislative Task Force on Tuesday kicked off three days of hearings to talk about the future of the "private option" expansion, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. The program was crafted as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Jacqueline Froelich / KUAF

The Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, headquartered in Little Rock, operates the state-based health insurance exchange in accordance with both state and federal law. On November 1, the state marketplace opened the Small Business Health Options Program, SHOP for short.

The following is a transcript of Governor Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of Dec. 11, 2015:

Almost a year ago, I announced my support for a legislative task force to determine the future of the Medicaid program in Arkansas. This Healthcare Task Force is set to make recommendations in the near future.

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proposed replacement for the private option, “Arkansas Works,” should encourage employer-based insurance, incentivize work, and ensure program integrity through a variety of means, including potentially an asset test for recipients, Hutchinson said Tuesday.

Speaking to the Arkansas Medicaid Educational Conference, Hutchinson (R) made it clear the private option will not continue in its current form, saying, “Please understand very carefully that on Dec. 31, 2016, the private option ends. The private option ends.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has directed the Department of Human Services to pause development of its $112-million-over-budget computerized Medicaid Enrollment and Eligibility Framework (EEF) after receiving a report from a consultant recommending he do so.

State Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville).
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

A legislative task force looking at the future of Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid program is nearing a deadline for recommendations.

Rep. Charlie Collins, chairman of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force, told members Tuesday that they will vote at the December meeting on recommendations for the program and for overall changes to the Medicaid system. Consultants reviewed options for cost savings under different managed care models during the first portion of Tuesday's meeting and will continue talks during the afternoon.

Arkansas Children's Hospital

Arkansas hospitals are doing better than some of their counterparts in other states that did not expand their Medicaid populations, a new study by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement finds.

In 2013, Arkansas legislators voted to expand Arkansas’ Medicaid population through the Arkansas Health Care Independence Program, better known as the private option. The program uses state Medicaid dollars to purchase private insurance for Arkansans with incomes of no more than 138% of the federal poverty line. Many states, meanwhile, chose not to expand their populations.