Arkansas Healthcare

Medical Marijuana
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Backers of one of three marijuana-related proposals vying for the November ballot in Arkansas turned in dozens of boxloads of petitions to the Secretary of State's office Monday. Now it's up to officials to determine if there are enough legitimate signatures for it to be placed before voters.

Speaking to supporters in the Capitol Rotunda, organizer Melissa Fults with Arkansans for Compassionate Care argued the benefits are clear.

Medical Marijuana
Arkansans for Compassionate Care

The wording for three  ballot initiatives concerning marijuana have been approved by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Two would allow medicinal use of the drug while the third would legalize all forms of the cannabis plant. Now backers of the proposals are gathering signatures.

Four years ago voters narrowly defeated a similar proposal. “The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act” was rejected by about 30,000 votes, 51-to-49 percent.

UAMS campus in Little Rock.

Talk Business and Politics reports

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is about to embark on a critical time for revenue, Dr. Dan Rahn, the school’s chancellor, told members of a newly formed “Friends of UAMS” chapter in Fort Smith.

Talk Business and Politics reports:

A new report by the United Health Foundation shows that Arkansas is among the unhealthiest states for seniors, mainly due to the high prevalence of obesity, physical inactivity and food insecurity. / Arkansas Insurance Department

Four of the five insurers offering policies on Arkansas' insurance marketplace next year under the federal health law have proposed rate increases of at least 10 percent.

The Arkansas Insurance Department on Tuesday said QualChoice Life and Health, QCA Health Plan Inc., Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association have each proposed the rate increases. The department says Ambetter has proposed a rate increase below 10 percent.

The Collaborative

Arkansas has enrolled the lowest percentage of healthcare exchange-eligible residents of any state nationwide, according to analysis done by a consortium of researchers from Rhode Island universities.

According to Robert Hackey, a professor of Health Policy and Management at Providence College, the Kaiser Family Foundation data shows only 19 percent of eligible Arkansans enrolled.

Unity Health, a Searcy-based health system, announced Thursday that it is the first medical provider in Arkansas to join the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

The arrangement means Unity Health doctors will have access to electronic consulting with physicians with the Mayo Clinic, one of the country’s top-ranked medical providers by U.S. News & World Report. Patient medical information such as MRI scans will be transmitted to those doctors. Unity Health also will have access to the AskMayoExpert database with information on disease management and care guidelines.

Arkansas Senate
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers are to formally adjourn the bi-annual fiscal session of the legislature Monday, with a general consensus that it was a productive, bi-partisan effort.

Last week included passage of a formal budget for the coming fiscal year. The start of the session saw debate and eventually approval of legislation to allow Arkansas to accept federal healthcare dollars to continue the state's Medicaid expansion plan, providing coverage for more than a quarter million low income residents.

Steps leading up the Arkansas Senate chamber.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

An attempt in the Arkansas Senate on Tuesday to override Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto – that allowed for Medicaid expansion to continue – failed on a voice vote. Many on both sides expected the veto override move to fall short of the needed majority since nearly all of the lawmakers who sent the budget bill to the governor's desk- knowing in advance he planned to veto the provision that would end Medicaid expansion - were supporters of his Arkansas Works plan.

The floor of the Arkansas Senate.

Backers of Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion plan are expected to try again this week to overcome the resistance of a minority of Republican lawmakers and pass a budget bill. 

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and legislative leaders are trying to persuade wary Democrats to back a plan to save Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion by initially voting to defund the subsidized health coverage for thousands of poor people.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers are taking a long weekend after hitting a budget standoff over the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion.

House and Senate leaders on Thursday said they're recessing until Tuesday afternoon. The announcement follows the Medicaid budget bill funding the hybrid expansion failing to win the 27 votes needed in the Senate.

An alternate plan aimed at allowing the governor to reinstate the program if it's not included in Medicaid's budget has also stalled, and House Democrats say they don't want to vote on any other budget bills until the impasse is resolved.

Jonathan dismang
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Republican opponents of Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion have blocked funding for the expanded coverage and a host of other programs for the poor and disabled.

The Senate on Thursday voted 25-10 in favor of the Medicaid budget bill funding the hybrid expansion, two votes shy of the 27 needed for passage. It was unclear when supporters would try another vote on the bill, and the Senate sent the measure back to the Joint Budget Committee.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers are taking up the funding bill for the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion, despite predictions that opponents have enough votes to block the expanded coverage for thousands of poor people.

The Senate was expected Thursday to take up the Medicaid budget bill, which includes funding for the hybrid expansion. The program uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.

Arkansas Sen. Larry Teague speaking to reporters after Wednesday's committee vote, urging passage of the governor's plan.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The written article is compiled from Associated Press reports.

Funding for Arkansas' first-in-the-nation hybrid Medicaid expansion is heading toward its first vote in the Legislature's fiscal session.

The Joint Budget Committee on a voice vote Wednesday advanced the Medicaid budget bill that funds the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for thousands of lower-income people.

The Senate is expected to take up the measure Thursday.

Arkansas House of Representatives.

Arkansas lawmakers have convened a fiscal session focused on the state's budget, with a standoff looming over the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion.

Wednesday opponents of the healthcare program filed a proposal to cap enrollment and terminate the expanded coverage by the end of the year.

Republican Senator Bart Hester wants to repeal legislation signed into law last week with Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to rework the program. It uses federal funds to buy private insurance for low-income residents. Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger filed an identical version in the House.

hutchinson medicaid
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Failure to pass his Arkansas Works program could lead to the cancellation of a planned special session for highways, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday.

Arkansas House Speaker Jeremy Gillam during the April 2016 special session on Medicaid expansion.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas House leaders say a host of state programs including public schools, prisons and colleges would face cuts if lawmakers don't fund the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion.

Arkansas House Speaker Jeremy Gillam on Monday released an alternate budget detailing the cuts needed if legislation funding the expanded coverage isn't approved. The Legislature last week approved Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to keep and rework the expansion, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor.

Gov. Radio Column: Passage of Ark. Works

Apr 9, 2016
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)
Governor's Office

The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of April 8, 2016:

  This is Governor Asa Hutchinson…

There was one key bill on the agenda of the three-day extraordinary session of the General Assembly: Arkansas Works. Arkansas Works provides greater emphasis on work opportunities, requires a personal investment in healthcare, increases usage of employer-based insurance and implements cost-saving measures.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Arkansas Works Healthcare
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law his plan to keep and rework the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion, as he now faces a fight from fellow Republicans who want to block the program's funding.

On Friday he signed into law two bills outlining his proposed changes to the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for more than 250,000 low-income residents. The program was created three years ago as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Charlie Collins
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Arkansas legislators have given initial approval to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to continue a modified form of the state's Medicaid expansion, but the margins suggest it will be an uphill battle to approve funding.

Arkansas House of Representatives.

Arkansas lawmakers are taking up Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to keep and rework the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion.

Health Care Execs Discuss Challenges Amid Changing Laws, Demographics

Apr 6, 2016

Healthcare is changing as hospitals modify services away from fee-based compensation to an outcome-based system in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. That, and workforce shortages, were among the challenges discussed Wednesday at the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Health Care Summit in Rogers.

Changing the entire mindset of the health care sector and the patients it serves is taking place in accordance with the Affordable Health Care Act, said Dr. Bill Bradley, president and CEO of Washington Regional Medical System.

Arkansas Legislature Begins Special Session To Consider Healthcare

Apr 6, 2016
Governor Asa Hutchinson legislature

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is calling the debate over the future of the hybrid Medicaid expansion a "watershed" moment for the state. He compared the special session convened on his proposal to keep and rework the expansion to past sessions on major issues such as the state's school funding system.

Hours after Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the Legislature would consider only his Arkansas Works legislation in a special session that begins Wednesday, legislators publicly released a bill they say will help the state’s Medicaid system save more than a billion dollars over five years.

The 30-page bill would create DiamondCare, which would use private administrative services organizations that would contract with the Department of Human Services to manage some Medicaid services, rather than those services being managed entirely by DHS.

Arkansas Democrats Remind Governor He Needs Their Help On Medicaid Expansion

Apr 5, 2016
Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Vincent Insalaco in his office in Little Rock.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

With the special session on Medicaid expansion all but upon us Democrats are continuing to show signs that their support is not to be taken for granted by the Republican governor. Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Vincent Insalaco released a statement today making the case for Democratic leverage.

Herb Sanderson AARP
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson will limit the call in the upcoming special legislative session to his continuation of the private option, which he is calling Arkansas Works, and will not ask legislators to consider his managed care savings plan.

Hutchinson announced his intentions during a press conference at the Capitol Tuesday, the day after Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe; and Speaker of the House Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, informed him in letters that a majority consensus exists with Arkansas Works but not with his managed care program.

Jonathan Dismang
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The leaders of the state House and Senate are asking Gov. Asa Hutchinson to focus the upcoming special session on Arkansas Works, which is his continuation of the private option, and omit a second bill that would create a managed care model for some Medicaid programs because it doesn’t have enough support.

Medicaid Advisory Committee healthcare Governor Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the savings he's projecting from his proposal to shift some Medicaid services to private firms will cut the state's waiting list for developmentally disabled in half.

Hutchinson on Wednesday defended his plan to keep next week's special session agenda limited to his managed care and hybrid Medicaid expansion proposals. The Republican governor is urging lawmakers to keep and rework the hybrid expansion, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor.

Arkansas ranks poorly in a study done by Consumer Reports that reviews medical board websites in all 50 states. The lack of easy access to physician’s records of past disciplinary actions is the primary issue spotlighted by the magazine.

Lisa McGiffert, director of the magazine’s Safe Patient Project, says things are confusing from the beginning, since visitors to the website must click on "Verify License" to access a physician’s profile. She believes a clearer description would make the information more accessible, but says challenges continue as patients move through the site.