Arkansas Healthcare

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

On Wednesday Arkansas Lawmakers were presented with the first concrete proposals seeking to alter the "private option," the state's unique approach to expanding health coverage for thousands of low-income people using federal Medicaid money.


Arkansas Legislature House Floor
Chris Hickey / KUAR

The Arkansas Legislature convened for the second day of a month-long fiscal session Tuesday to consider state budgetary matters and other issues. Behind the scenes, lawmakers continue to plan possible changes to the state’s private option expansion of Medicaid in an effort to make reauthorizing funds for the program more palatable to many of the Legislature's conservative members. While House and Senate leaders were confident the program for low-income Arkansans can be reauthorized, House majority Leader Bruce Westerman told reporters that he didn't see that happening.

Chris Hickey / KUAR

Before lawmakers  milled about in the two legislative chambers,  state police color guards posted their flags and roll was called Monday, preparations for the month-long fiscal session had long been underway with months of hearings and reviews of budget proposals. The session will deal with those budget proposals for various state entities as put forward by Governor Mike Beebe. Members of the House and Senate must reach three-fourths majorities to approve them, amending certain sections along the way.

Arkansas Capitol
Ron Breeding / KUAR News

Less than a year after its approval, Arkansas' much-heralded plan to expand Medicaid by buying private insurance for the poor instead of adding them to the rolls is on the brink of being abandoned.

Supporters are worried that they won't have enough votes to keep the program alive after the Legislature convenes Monday.

Arkansas' plan would use federal money to purchase the policies for those who became eligible under the new health care law.

Many Republicans believe private insurers will manage the benefits more efficiently than the Medicaid program.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is comparing ending the state's compromise Medicaid expansion that he backed to the insurance policy cancelations that many saw as the federal health care overhaul rolled out.

Speaking to the Political Animals Club on Wednesday, Beebe said halting the private option seems hypocritical since opponents of the expansion also complained about the widespread reports of policy cancelations from the federal health law last year.

Beebe later walked back the remarks, but said he believed the consequences would be similar.

Arkansas lawmakers are reviewing the rules for enforcing a law approved last year banning most abortions at 20 weeks into a woman's pregnancy.

Members of the House and Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Friday are scheduled to discuss changes in the rules for abortion facilities that will incorporate language from the 20-week ban. The Republican-led Legislature enacted the restriction last year, overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.

Governor Beebe with Reporters
Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

  Governor Mike Beebe told a statewide television audience Thursday night the legislature will leave an $86-million "hole in the budget" if it reverses course from last year and ends the private option for the expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The funding for the private option must be re-appropriated each year. Lawmakers are expected to decide its fate in the fiscal session now underway at the capitol.

Arkansas voters view the private option insurance plan more favorably than unfavorably, according to a new survey from Talk Business and Hendrix College.

UAMS Opens A New Sickle Cell Anemia Clinic

Jan 21, 2014

A new clinic for adults with sickle cell anemia is opening at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. 

The program will offer a 24/7 call center as well as provide yearly flu shots and things not always available in more rural areas.

Physician with the program, Dr. Robin Devan, says approximately 1,300 children and adults suffer from sickle cell in Arkansas, but treatment isn’t consistent.

The director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services says he doesn't have an alternative budget if lawmakers block funding for the state's "private option" version of Medicaid expansion in the February fiscal session.