Arkansas Healthcare

Willie Freeman says he used to avoid smiling, and if he did, it was in a way almost no one could see, with his mouth closed. He was embarrassed of his rotten teeth.

“I wouldn’t go around people and if I did smile, you know, nobody would see me smile,” said Freeman. “My teeth was so messed up, you know, I had gaps everywhere,” he said sitting in an office at Little Rock’s low-income, non-profit Harmony Health Clinic, waiting for an appointment.

What's The Skinny

Jul 28, 2017

A decisive early Friday vote on a GOP-led Obamacare "skinny" repeal comes up short. Why Arkansas's Senators voted for the failed measure amidst evidence that state public opinion may not be quite on their side.

Both of Arkansas’s U.S. Senators - Tom Cotton and John Boozman – joined a failed effort in the early morning hours, around 1:30 a.m. Washington D.C. time, to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act. While three Republicans (Linda Murkowski-AL, Susan Collins-ME, John McCain-AZ) voted with Democrats to defeat the proposal, Cotton and Boozman joined with the majority of their party. The vote was 51-49.

Late Wednesday night Arkansas’s four member U.S. House delegation, all Republican, split over a vote to eliminate the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis division. That’s the non-partisan government office charged with scoring things like healthcare repeal bills for cost and how many would gain or lose insurance coverage.

Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton of Arkansas joined their Republican colleagues in voting to begin debate on repealing and possibly replacing the Affordable Care Act.

In written statements released after the vote Tuesday afternoon, both were cautious in their support with so much unknown about what will be presented. Boozman said it was "just the first step," while Cotton said he will be "carefully monitoring any legislative changes that are proposed."

Two other Republicans in the Senate voted against it, with Vice-President Mike Pence breaking a tie vote.

  

Dr. Sheldon Riklon walks into an examination room inside Community Clinic in Springdale and greets his patient.

"Iakwe," he says, and slides a stool over to Haem Mea, a shy Marshallese elder. The two speak softly to one another for a few moments.

Then he poses this question: So what's it like to have a real Marshallese doctor in town?

“Really helpful,” Mea says, grinning.

Riklon is one of only two U.S. trained Marshallese doctors in the world. He relocated from the Hawaiin islands last year to Northwest Arkansas where the largest population of migrants from the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the world now reside.

Dr. Riklon practices family medicine at Community Clinic, a federally qualified health center which last year served more than 36,000 middle- to low-income patients in Benton and Washington Counties, thousands of them Marshallese. And many of them are really sick. 

Independent 2nd District Congressional candidate Natasha Burch Hulsey demonstrating outside of U.S. Senator John Boozman's Washington D.C. resident in advance of a healthcare vote.
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Arkansas's U.S. Senators are poised to vote Tuesday afternoon to begin taking up some type of healthcare repeal, possibly the House backed plan to repeal and replace much of the Affordable Care Act. While U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton have been generally low key about the healthcare effort opponents have been notably vocal.

Arkansas demonstrators, of which more than 20 have been arrested so far, along with Congressional challengers have been active throughout the largely closed door legislative process.

For Kids On Life Support, Living At Home A Question For Health Debate

Jul 24, 2017

Two-year-old Adalynn Landrum lies on a blanket on the floor of her living room. She watches cartoons on a large flat screen television screen hung above a row of stuffed animals placed on a blanket next to her on the floor. Her small face is partially covered by an oxygen feeding cup with a tube connected to a medical cart stationed behind her head. The cart holds an array of devices.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R).
CSIS

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton is in favor of a Republican plan for a straightforward repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. Both of Arkansas's Republican senators, Cotton and John Boozman, have long favored ending the Affordable Care Act, but neither has spoken publicly about the now-flopped repeal and replace plan.

More than a dozen Arkansans have been arrested so far this month demonstrating against attempts by Republicans to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act and that number stands to grow. On Monday at 5 p.m. about a dozen Arkansans are gathering in Little Rock to head to Washington D.C. in a bid to keep up the pressure.

The U.S. Senate was expected to hold a vote this week following a Congressional Budget Office score but both have been delayed. Arizona Senator John McCain is recovering from surgery.

Arkansas’s congressional delegation is returning to Washington D.C. following a July 4th recess and the state’s U.S. Senators are as tight lipped as ever about the GOP’s stalled bill to end much of the Affordable Care Act.

Does Senator Tom Cotton support the healthcare plan he helped draft with 12 other white male Republican Senators? Does Senator John Boozman support the plan backed by the majority of his party? These are basic questions Arkansans don’t have answers to.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas has asked the federal government to approve new limits the state wants on its hybrid Medicaid expansion that would move 60,000 people off the program and impose a work requirement on some participants.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday submitted the proposed changes to the program, which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. The program was created in 2013 as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health overhaul.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson outlines changes he wants made to the Republican healthcare plan in the U.S. Senate.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

As Congress readies for the July recess, governors are among those trying to shape the stalled Senate healthcare bill. Arkansas’s Republican governor wants the state’s Republican  senators to make changes.

He isn’t offering a full rebuke – even saying the U.S. Senate is moving in the right direction - but Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the proposal poses a “big problem” for the state.

AACF Health Policy Director Marquita Little.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

The Congressional Budget Office’s scoring on the Senate Republican healthcare plan is out and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families concludes it'll do a great deal of harm to Arkansans. The CBO report finds 22 million people would lose insurance coverage, premiums would go up, and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts would be given to the country’s wealthiest citizens – and that’s among many other changes.

Talk Business & Politics

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., agrees with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that 50 votes for healthcare reform don’t presently exist in the U.S. Senate.

Talk Business and Politics reports.

Arkansas is preparing an application for changes to the state’s Arkansas Works healthcare program even as federal lawmakers propose budget cuts that would significantly de-fund it.

The Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday released an analysis of the possible impact of health care legislation passed by the U.S. House, the American Health Care Act, that found a proposed $834 billion in cuts would cause 23 million people to lose insurance under the legislation — 14 million of those would be Medicaid patients.

Physician assistants don’t have the same level of education as a doctor but do many of the same things, but they're being credited with helping to fill some of the scheduling gaps that have long been a problem in rural Arkansas.

Supporters of the profession say physician assistants can help with writing prescriptions for common illnesses, setting simple fractures and assisting with long-term management for illnesses such as diabetes.  Physician assistants were also the highest level of medical professional to attend the recent executions in Arkansas.

UAMS campus carry guns
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Ahead of a new law taking effect in September that expands places where people can carry firearms, schools that want to prohibit concealed handguns are working with state police to get exemptions.

Institutions seeking to ban concealed weapons from certain areas and events must send a security plan to be approved by Arkansas State Police.

The plan calls for schools to have enhanced security measures in place should they choose to opt out of the bill. One institution seeking to restrict concealed carry is the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

A three-year initiative to address the long-running problem of a shortage of nurses in Arkansas is being launched by UA Little Rock and CHI St. Vincent. The Pathway Program was announced on Thursday.

Read the memorandum of understanding between partners here. 

For lawmakers, caregivers and patients  a solution to the state legislature’s multi-year process of bringing a new type of coordination to a traditional Medicaid population is set to be finalized this summer.

PASSE, or Provider-led Arkansas Shared Savings Entity, will be a new oversight entity made up of nonprofit and for-profit health providers to manage the care of the state’s medically needy Medicaid population. It includes the elderly, developmentally disabled and mentally ill. The deadline for these companies to apply to be in PASSE is June 15, according to the Department of Human Services and the Arkansas Insurance Department.

U.S. Representative French Hill (R-2nd District). File photo.
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The news emanating from the Oval Office this week has escalated arguments the Trump White House, and before that his campaign, has illicit ties to the Russian government. Meanwhile, the President’s legislative agenda is hobbling along.

U.S. Representative French Hill (R-2nd District) joined KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman to share his thoughts on FBI Director James Comey and the future of healthcare.

Arkansas Democrats weren’t even able to muster a full slate of challengers for Arkansas’s four U.S. House seats last election but in northwest Arkansas, four-term Republican Congressman Steve Womack now has a race on his hands. Joshua Mahony, the 36-year old head of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, is running as a Democrat for the 3rd District seat. He spoke with KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman about his bid for Congress.

Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Constituents of central Arkansas Congressman French Hill rallied at his Little Rock office on Monday to decry his vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. KUAR estimates about 50 people lined a sidewalk on North University Avenue holding signs saying “repeal and replace French Hill,” among other slogans. It was a grassroots effort that Katherine Pope helped organize.

Governor Asa Hutchinson sign into law Military retirees tax break
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a plan to scale back the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion that would move 60,000 people off the program and impose a work requirement on some remaining participants.

Hutchinson's office said Thursday he signed into law legislation allowing the state to seek federal approval for the new restrictions to the program, which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. More than 300,000 people are on the program, which was created in 2013 as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers have approved scaling back the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion by moving 60,000 people off the program and requiring some remaining participants to work.

The Senate and House gave final approval to identical measures Wednesday.

The plans will allow state to seek federal approval for the new restrictions to a program that covers more than 300,000 people. The program was created in 2013 as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health overhaul.

Begin Shrinking Expanded Medicaid, Legislature Decides

May 2, 2017

Arkansas's General Assembly has given initial approval to healthcare changes not possible under President Obama. 

The modifications would move about 60,000 out of the subsidized Medicaid expansion that took place after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and under the guidance of Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. These recipients would become customers in the regular exchange. The changes also include new Medicaid work requirements.  

A final vote is expected Wednesday morning.

The Arkansas House of Representatives chamber.
arkansashouse.org

Arkansas lawmakers have given initial approval to moving 60,000 people off the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion program and to impose a work requirement on its participants.

The House on Tuesday voted 71-23 for the new restrictions by a 71-23, while the Senate approved an identical measure by a 23-9 vote.

Final votes on the bills are expected in both chambers on Wednesday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this year proposed the restrictions, which must also be approved by the federal government.

Governor Asa Hutchinson
arkansashouse.org

An Arkansas House committee has advanced Gov. Asa Hutchinson's proposal to make changes to the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion program.

Hutchinson called for a special legislative session for lawmakers to address Medicaid and other issues, including shoring up the state's long-term reserve fund.

More than 300,000 people are covered by Arkansas Works, the program that uses Medicaid money to buy private insurance for low-income residents. Hutchinson wants to move 60,000 people off the program, and put in place a work requirement for eligibility.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

On a second try, the Arkansas House of Representatives successfully passed the appropriation for the state Department of Human Services Division of Medical Services. The Division oversees the state’s expanded Medicaid program, which includes the health coverage of more than 300,000 low-income adults.

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