Arkansas Healthcare

Steps leading up the Arkansas Senate chamber.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

An Arkansas Senate committee has advanced bills to change the medical marijuana law approved by voters in November by banning smoking medical marijuana and the selling of food or drinks containing the drug, but an effort to halt the start of the program until the drug is legalized nationwide failed.

The Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor on Wednesday endorsed and sent to the full Senate bills banning the smoking, eating or drinking of marijuana, but allowing a patient or designated caregiver to incorporate marijuana into food or drink for medicinal use.

Arkansas State Capitol
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

A bill that would freeze enrollment in Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion program has advanced out of a state House committee.

Republican state Rep. Josh Miller's proposal would require the state to ask federal officials for permission to end enrollment. The bill calls for new enrollment to end as of July 1, 2017.

The proposal now heads to the full House.

Miller says more people have enrolled than anticipated and lawmakers have expressed concern about the program's costs amid uncertainty about the fate of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A state Senate committee has advanced legislation that would leave the decision on whether to allow licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to grow their own pot up to a state commission.

The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Thursday endorsed the proposal to let the Medical Marijuana Commission decide whether dispensaries that sell the drug can also grow it. An amendment voters approved last year legalizing medical marijuana allows licensed dispensaries and cultivation facilities to grow marijuana.

State Sen. Jason Rapert (file photo).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas voters took to the ballot box in November to put in place a medical marijuana program. They did so in the form of a Constitutional Amendment. But that doesn’t mean the state Legislature can't have something to say about it.

State Senator Jason Rapert, a Republican representing Conway and Bigelow talked to KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman about a bill to stop the program from going into effect unless the federal government legalizes medicinal use first.

This interview was taped on January 27.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the first two medical marijuana bills into law Monday.

House Bill 1026 by Rep. Doug House, R-North Little Rock, extends the deadline for rule making from 120 days after the election to 180. It passed the Senate Jan. 19 after earlier passing the House.

Arkansas state capitol building.
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

An Arkansas legislative committee has voted to outlaw an abortion procedure that opponents call "savage" and "barbaric" while others deem it the safest way to end a pregnancy in the second trimester.

The proposal by a legislator who is president of Arkansas Right to Life would ban dilation and evacuation, also known as a D&E abortion. The measure passed the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on a voice vote Thursday.

Arkansas would be the third state to ban the procedure, after Mississippi and West Virginia. Similar prohibitions are on hold amid court challenges in other states.

Welcome to another edition of KUAR's Week In Review podcast where the KUAR News team takes a look at the news from the week that was.

Cindy Gillespie

The Department of Human Services has virtually erased a backlog of Medicaid eligibility cases that had reached 140,000 people earlier this year, Director Cindy Gillespie said in a letter sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday (Jan. 11).

As of Dec. 30, there were 692 overdue cases. Some individuals’ applications dated back to 2014.

“Based on a review of the remaining cases, all individuals have coverage and the only work that remains is simply clean-up of case files,” wrote Gillespie, who began working in her position in March.

Scott Pace is the CEO of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association.
Karen E. Segrave / Arkansas Business

With President-elect Trump and a Republican Congress expected to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Arkansas hospital officials are watching the situation with a great deal of uncertainty.

Almost 11 percent of Arkansans – about 325-thousand people – now have coverage through an exchange set up through the state’s Medicaid expansion program.

Reporter Mark Friedman with Arkansas Business talked with several hospital officials for a story in this week’s issue. Friedman also spoke with KUAR's Michael Hibblen about what he heard. You can hear the full interview above.

Outside the Arkansas House chamber in the state Capitol building.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A State of the State address from the governor and the first salvo of medical marijuana-related bills are expected Tuesday morning, day two of the 91st General Assembly.  Governor Asa Hutchinson is scheduled to address a joint session of the state House and Senate at 10:30 a.m.  Watch the speech here.