Arkansas Healthcare

medical care health doctor
Pixabay / WIkimedia Commons

The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that would dissolve the State Medical Board at the end of this year and let House and Senate leaders each appoint one-third of its members.

Senate Bill 570 by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, would end the terms of each of the members of the Arkansas State Medical Board by Dec. 31. They would be replaced or reappointed by that date.

Talk Business & Politics host Roby Brock speaking with Rep. Michelle Gray (R-Bethesda), Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) and Arkansas Secretary of Human Services Cindy Gillespie.
Talk Business & Politics

Under construction for the past year, Arkansas lawmakers and Gov. Hutchinson’s administration will unveil their newest version of Medicaid expansion on Monday.

ARHOME (pronounced “Are-Home”) stands for Arkansas Health & Opportunity for Me. Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Bethesda, will be two of the lead sponsors of the proposal.

Arkansas Legislature

A bill that would allow healthcare providers to decline certain non-emergency medical services because of their moral opposition has failed in a legislative committee.

Members of the Arkansas House Public Health, Welfare and Labor committee voted not to approve Senate Bill 289 in a meeting Thursday following hours of debate, including an abbreviated public comment period cut short by a motion for immediate consideration.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An upcoming case going before the U.S. Supreme Court could permanently halt Arkansas’ first-in-the-nation work requirement for some Medicaid recipients.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences UAMS
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has received $2.83 million to address a shortage of doctors in rural parts of the state. The funding is the latest from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which previously awarded $4.6 million to the program.

U.S. Supreme Court

A law regulating reimbursements by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) should stand because it doesn’t regulate benefits or plan administration, Arkansas Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The attorney representing PBMs, however, argued the law is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a federal law otherwise known as ERISA.

Supreme Court justices are to hear oral arguments Tuesday in the appeal of an Arkansas case regarding an attempt by the state to regulate pharmacy benefit managers.
Scott Applewhite/ AP / NPR

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Tuesday in Arkansas’ appeal of a case regarding reimbursements pharmacies receive from insurance providers. At issue is a 2015 law passed by the Arkansas General Assembly which has the potential to be a precedent-setting case.

U.S. Supreme Court

Arkansas Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni will defend before the U.S. Supreme Court the constitutionality of a state law regulating pharmacy benefit managers next Tuesday.

Passed in 2015, Act 900 seeks to regulate pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which act as middlemen between pharmacists and insurance providers. Their reimbursement rates theoretically incentivize pharmacies to find lower wholesale drug prices.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a proposed initiated act to overturn a state law expanding optometric procedures does not qualify for the November ballot. The measure would have overturned Act 579 of 2019, which permitted optometrists to perform limited eye surgeries.

Safe Surgery Arkansas, which was supported by the state’s ophthalmologists, is the group that was pushing to overturn Act 579. Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, a group led by optometrists, had challenged the ballot initiative.

The Proton Therapy Center at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. A consortium of healthcare providers in Arkansas have announced plans to build the first state's first proton treatment
Romina Cialdella / Wikimedia Commons

Cancer patients in Arkansas will soon have an alternative to radiation therapy, which can damage healthy tissues and have long-term consequences.

A public service campaign is underway encouraging people in central Arkansas to seek medical care that they have delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Take Care Arkansas is being funded by two matching $25,000 grants from the Fifty for the Future community service organization and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Talk Business & Politics

One of the obvious outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is that telemedicine and telehealth will no longer be a wave of the future. They’re here and here to stay.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson loosened regulations on the use of telehealth due to the coronavirus outbreak that had previously limited the ability of doctors, nurses and patients to see one another in person to start a relationship. In an executive order issued in late March, Hutchinson suspended the rules that require a face-to-face meeting to establish a physician-patient relationship.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

A new app from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs allows veterans to access information on healthcare news, VA health care locations and other functions.

Chris Durney is the public affairs officer for the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. He says veterans who are traveling could use the MyVA Info app to find assistance in an unfamiliar place.

Central Arkansas Library System

A new grant awarded to the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) will help the library better assist patrons in their communities.  The grant, awarded by the Arkansas Community Foundation, will help develop the library’s Community Resources Program which aids patrons experiencing poverty, hunger, homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse.

The grant will primarily fund mental health first aid training for CALS staff to easier identify warning signs and risk factors. 

Kevin De Liban

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously found an experimental Arkansas Medicaid waiver program to be unlawful.

Similar demonstration projects are under development in over fifteen other states. In Arkansas, certain adults aged 19 to 49 must fulfill certain work requirements to receive medical benefits under the state's expanded Medicaid program titled, "Arkansas Works."

Arkansas Works Governor Asa Hutchinson Work Requirement
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal appeals court panel in Washington has upheld a lower court's decision that blocked the Trump administration's work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

Friday's decision from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., found the Arkansas work requirements for Medicaid recipients to be “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Trump administration has allowed states to require able-bodied adults drawing Medicaid benefits to work, volunteer or study. Officials argue that work can make people healthier.

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield President and CEO Curtis Barnett speaks to hospital executives Tuesday before presenting checks to help 14 hospitals share patient information.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Fourteen rural hospitals received Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield grants totaling $817,000 to fund their connection to a program enabling medical computer systems to talk to each other. The one-year grant will allow all the hospitals to connect to the state-operated State Health Alliance for Records Exchange at the highest level possible, said Blue Cross President and CEO Curtis Barnett.

Dental hygienists are starting to fill a crital gap in oral health in Arkansas, experts say, given the state has a  shortage of dentists, especially in low-income rural districts.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary praised Arkansas for its commitment to its veterans while choosing not to speak as much to non-VA matters, such as proposed federal cuts to non-VA programs and comments from a Republican U.S senator from Arkansas concerning service members.

During a visit to the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans' Hospital in Little Rock Tuesday, Secretary Robert Wilkie discussed reorganization efforts within the VA. This includes the Mission Act, which changes how veterans can receive healthcare.

Dr. Brian Nichol medical marijuana doctor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas’s second medical marijuana dispensary opened one day earlier than expected. Green Springs Medical in Hot Springs began selling to people Sunday at about 4:15 p.m., according to KTHV-TV. It follows the opening Friday evening of Doctor’s Orders RX, which is also in Hot Springs. A steady stream of people lined up at the first dispensary through the weekend wanting to be among the first to get the drug.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Breast cancer screenings could become more accurate, more comfortable, and more common in Little Rock. That's the goal of the new Breast Center at CARTI, which officials announced Monday will open in June.

The new center aims to use the latest technology while also making the cancer screenings a more pleasant experience for women. Dr. Stacy Smith-Foley, a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, will lead the new center.


Arkansas’s first medical marijuana dispensary has been approved to open, though it’ll likely be about a week before it has product for sale. The state’s Alcohol Beverage Control, which is part of the Department of Finance and Administration and regulates medical marijuana, announced Friday that inspectors went through Doctor’s Orders RX in Hot Springs with the local fire marshal and found it met all required standards.

Asa Hutchinson signing bills
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

All bills passed during the 2019 session of the Arkansas General Assembly have been signed into law. Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not veto any bills this year. He signed the final pieces of legislation Wednesday afternoon alongside several lawmakers.

A formal adjournment is set to take place next Wednesday when lawmakers return to the Capitol for Sine Die. In some previous years, that has been when senators and representatives have had to consider whether to attempt to override gubernatorial vetoes, something that won’t be necessary this time.

The number of people served by the state’s Arkansas Works program increased by 4,215 from March 1 to April 1.

The state’s Department of Human Services reported Monday that the population April 1 was 240,177, compared to 235,962 on March 1. The difference represents a 1.8% increase from the March 1 total.

The April 1 total was the highest beginning-of-the-month total this year. On Jan. 1, it was 234,400.

Arkansas Works Governor Asa Hutchinson Work Requirement
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Trump administration is appealing recent rulings by a federal judge that blocked work requirements for some low-income people on Medicaid.

The rulings last month by Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., blocked work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. The Arkansas requirements were already in effect, while in Kentucky they are a top priority for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

The Justice Department filed notice on Wednesday appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Medicaid Asa Hutchinson Mathew Shephard Jim Hendren
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

In a marginless vote of 75-18, the Arkansas House on Tuesday approved the $8.1 billion appropriations for the state’s Medicaid expansion program and other state Department of Human Services priorities only days after soundly rejecting the same measure.

All state budget bills must be approved by both the House and Senate by a three-fourths vote, meaning the 75 votes for Senate Bill 99 left no room for error. Last week, House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, predicted that the 100-member lower chamber would back the DHS-Medicaid biennial budget.

David Monteith / KUAR News

The 18,000 Arkansans who lost healthcare due to the state's work reporting requirement could begin receiving coverage again if a bill introduced Monday passes in the legislature.

Last week a federal judge ruled the requirement was unconstitutional. Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Mariana, is the bill's co-sponsor. During a press conference Monday, he said the Department of Human Services has been unwilling or unable to share contact information for those who have lost coverage.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas was the first state in the nation to be granted a waiver by the federal government to impose a work requirement on those with healthcare coverage through the state’s Medicaid expansion. With Wednesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg which halted the requirement, Arkansas leaders have been reacting on nationally-heard NPR programs.

The judge said the requirement undermines the very purpose of Medicaid which is to give medical care to low-income people .

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shephard, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren speaking to reporters Thursday offering reaction to the ruling by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg. Hutchinson says he is asking federal officia
Michael Hiblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is urging the Trump administration to pursue an expedited appeal of a U.S. district judge’s decision nullifying the Arkansas Works work requirement, while the Speaker of the House expects that body to vote in favor of funding the agency that administers the program on Friday.

The news came at a press conference Wednesday led by Hutchinson along with Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, and Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs.

Arkansas Works Governor Asa Hutchinson Work Requirement
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal judge has ruled that work requirements under the Arkansas Works program are not legal and called for an immediate halt to that element of the program. The ruling could have significant budget implications for the state.

In a ruling issued late Wednesday, U.S. Federal Judge James Boasberg said the work requirement element applied in 2018 to Arkansas’ Medicaid system is not legal. He rejected claims by the state that striking down the provision would be disruptive.