Arkansas Healthcare

Asa Hutchinson unveiling his thoughts on Medicaid expansion in early 2015.
Arkansas Times

Arkansas’s Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson is calling for the state’s Republican controlled legislature to keep funding its version of Medicaid expansion, at least for two more years, without adding any changes. Hutchinson revealed his position Thursday for the first time in an address at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R)
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

Governor Asa Hutchinson will for the first time reveal to Arkansans what he thinks should happen to the state’s Medicaid expansion plan in a speech Thursday morning at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.. The insurance program for over 220,000 Arkansans – known as the private option - faces a tough three-fourths vote this legislative session, as it did in the last, for re-authorization.

State Rep. Julie Mayberry (R-East End)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A bill filed Thursday in the Arkansas legislature seeks to prevent women from having a drug-induced abortion administered by a doctor via telemedicine. Two Republican women, state Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain Home and state Representative Julie Mayberry of East End, sponsored the legislation requiring a doctor to be physically present when a woman takes Mifepristone (RU-486). The attending physician must also attempt to make a follow-up appointment.

An screenshot from near its launch.

Arkansans who are still looking to sign up for health coverage on the Insurance Marketplace have about one month to due so. For those who want their coverage to begin on February 1st, the deadline is Thursday. So far, at least 51,801 Arkansans have signed up for coverage on About 53,000 residents signed up for coverage during the last open enrollment period.

Seth Blomely, Communications and Policy Research Manager at the Arkansas Insurance Department says the current open enrollment period is going more smoothly this time around.

A map showing the extent of flu activitiy in each U.S. state
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

Arkansas may be on track to see a flu season just as bad, if not worse, than the 2013-14 season. The Arkansas Department of Health says so far, there have been 12 confirmed flu-related deaths. At least six of those were people over the age of 65. Spokeswoman Kerry Krell says the pattern is widespread.

“Predominantly this season we're seeing H3N2,” she says. “It is notorious for causing a lot of illness; causing a lot of hospitalizations, especially in the elderly population.”

Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson has named Dr. Gregory Bledsoe to be the state’s next surgeon general. Hutchinson made the announcement Tuesday that Bledsoe, the son of a state senator and chair of an Alabama emergency medical center, will replace Dr. Joe Thompson as the state’s surgeon general.

Hutchinson’s communication director J.R. Davis said the incoming governor is personally familiar with Bledsoe, a graduate of UAMS.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The head of the state Senate and an architect of Arkansas' "private option" Medicaid plan says legislators are weighing changes to the system that will test how much flexibility the federal government will allow.

Under Arkansas' version of Medicaid expansion, the state uses federal money to buy private insurance for low-income residents. Senate President Jonathan Dismang has said the program will have to change dramatically in order to survive another year after several candidates who vowed to end the program were elected last month.

Governor elect Asa Hutchinson's recent announcement that he will appoint State Representative Allen Kerr to be Arkansas's next Insurance Commissioner could weigh significantly on the fate of Arkansas's Private Option.

With a Legislative session less than a month away, speculation about what will become of the private option hasn't included a specific plan from anyone, but there is wide-felt certainty that the new administration will bring changes.

Arkansas' attorney general says health care workers from Pulaski and Phillips counties have been arrested for alleged Medicaid fraud.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Tuesday authorities had arrested 53-year-old Patricia Sylvester of Marvell and 36-year-old Stephanie Simpson of North Little Rock.

Tens of thousands of Arkansans are expected to take part in the open enrollment period under the federal Affordable Care Act that begins this weekend.

Open enrollment begins Saturday and lasts until Feb. 15. Residents can enroll in the health marketplace, renew or change their plan options during this period.

The state says more than 44,000 residents enrolled in the health care marketplace for 2014 plans.