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Governor Hutchinson Pushes Waiver Application Approval For ARHOME, Creates Cyber Advisory Council

Gov. Asa Hutchison at his weekly press conference Tuesday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he is preparing to send the Biden Administration a waiver application for Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me or ARHOME. Arkansas Works, the current Medicaid expansion program, expires at the end of this year. If approved, ARHOME would be the latest Medicaid expansion.

The program would provide coverage for low-income families who make below 138% of the federal poverty level. The federal government would cover 90% of the costs, and the state would pay the remaining 10%.

During his weekly press conference Tuesday, Hutchinson said there’s a timeline the program has to go through to get approved.

“We’ve already begun the state public comments.We’ll have two public hearings in reference to hear the public on their comments about it,” Hutchinson said.

Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Cindy Gillespie, said so far there hasn’t been any negative feedback about the program.

“So far, really excellent response to what we’re doing, and people seem very comfortable with the direction we’re going. Genuinely, people are excited that we’re really focused on driving health improvement,” Gillespie said.

In addition to the comments, the waiver application will be sent to the Biden Administration on July 14th, which Hutchinson said he is confident it will be approved. After that, the Biden Administration will have to do another federal notice to ask for comments from a federal perspective.

“Once we get their approval, which we hope to have in November or December, which is actually critical because you have to understand that without approval of this waiver, then the current waiver ends December 31,” Hutchinson said. “So, this has to be approved in some form in order for the expanded healthcare that we have in Arkansas to be available.”

ARHOME is expected to begin Jan. 1, 2022. Hutchinson said this program could be a good investment for taxpayers.

“Arkansas has one of the highest rates of working adults on disability. ARHOME pushes health insurance plans to help in the effort to allow our citizens to move up economically. That is our object, that is our goal.”

Hutchinson expressed frustration with the state’s low ranking on health outcomes, and how there needs to be improvement on people’s health. The governor said the state will make training and other assistance available to lift people out of poverty and into the workforce.

Hutchinson also announced he has created the Arkansas Cyber Advisory Council. This comes after many high profile ransomware attacks against companies like Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods. There has also been an increase in the number of threats and attacks on the state’s computer systems.

“We are vulnerable, and we have to improve our security,” Hutchinson said. “We have done that in my administration. We’ve invested more in cyber protection, and in enhancing our security and our systems, but we have to do more and it has to be coordinated at the highest level.”

Hutchinson said the American Rescue Plan will fund the Advisory Council so members can make recommendations on what investments Arkansas needs to make to be protected against high-tech attacks.

Alexandria Brown is a news anchor and reporter for KUAR News. She was previously a Douthit scholar who interned for KUAR News. Alexandria will graduate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2022 in hopes of being a multimedia reporter.