Arkansas Healthcare

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.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson will include only two items in his special session call: a bill creating Arkansas Works, and a bill creating a managed care system for some Medicaid programs, his office said Tuesday.

The decision means a bill competing with the managed care bill and supported by some legislators will not be on the call list.

Hutchinson is calling legislators into a health care special session April 6 to consider those issues, to be followed April 13 by a fiscal session, which occurs every even-numbered year.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he’s confident Arkansas legislators will continue the state’s Medicaid expansion program with his proposed changes. But some lawmakers are more iffy about implementing a managed care program.

A special session on the topic is to begin April 6. The governor says he’s working with lawmakers now to draft the bills, along with industry officials to "make sure we have the right language in the bills and that we have the right safeguards for patients."

Hutchinson told reporters Tuesday that he expects both bills will pass after he works with lawmakers.

A group of five legislators was meeting Monday to prepare an alternative to the managed care bill supported by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Melbourne, said the group’s bill would create DiamondCare, a model where a private company would administer parts of the Medicaid program with incentives for cost-effective care.

(file photo) Gov. Asa Hutchinson and reporters look at a draft of legislation to make changes to Medicaid.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says his proposal to shift some Medicaid services to private companies broadens the debate about the program's future beyond the hybrid expansion he's urging lawmakers to save.

Hutchinson on Friday called his managed care plan and legislation to rework the state's hybrid expansion "historic." Hutchinson's comments come the day after lawmakers got their first look at the bills outlining the proposals. The Legislature is expected to convene April 6 for a special session focusing on both proposals.

One Capitol Mall has houses the Joint Budget Committee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A draft of the Arkansas Works Act of 2016, which would create the program that would replace the private option, is circulating among legislators and includes recommendations made earlier by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Meanwhile, two bills – one meant to produce savings through a managed care model, and one meant to produce savings through a “managed fee for service” model known as “DiamondCare” will begin circulating as early as today, Talk Business & Politics has learned.

Office of the Governor

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration is introducing two separate pieces of legislation in the upcoming special session: one that will create his program for continuing the private option, which he is calling Arkansas Works, and one he is calling a “savings bill” that includes a managed care provision and a managed care “bill of rights.”

Hutchinson made the comments Tuesday speaking to a town hall meeting – his first as governor – at Central Baptist College in Conway.

Governor Holding Medicaid Expansion Town Hall As Special Session Looms

Mar 22, 2016
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

In an effort to rally public opinion behind his healthcare plan, Arkansas Works, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is holding a town hall meeting Tuesday evening in Conway.

The current version of the healthcare program for over 200,000 low-income Arkansans, known as the private option, will expire at the end of this year if the legislature doesn’t take action.

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

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is hosting a town hall meeting next week as he tries to build support for his plan to keep the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion.

Hutchinson's office on Wednesday said the governor will host the town hall on his proposal to add new restrictions to the "private option," which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. Hutchinson, a Republican, has proposed renaming the program "Arkansas Works."

The town hall will be Tuesday night at Central Baptist College in Conway.

Jim Hendren
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers charged with issuing recommendations on the future of the state’s Medicaid expansion program voted Monday to back the Republican governor’s proposal to change and continue the Affordable Care Act-enabled plan that provides insurance to over 250,000 low-income residents. A series of bi-partisan votes have narrowly carried the program since its 2013 inception.

The convening of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force was planned as the penultimate meeting.

John Stephen Stephen Group
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The loss of the private option would have a $757 million impact on the state budget from 2017- 2021, legislators were told Monday morning.

Stephen Palmer with The Stephen Group, the consulting firm hired by the Health Reform Legislative Task Force, told legislators that ending the private option would result in an increase of $213 million in state expenditures over that five-year period. Meanwhile, ending it would reduce tax revenues by $544 million.

Arkansas Healthcare Providers Oppose Managed Care Reforms

Mar 3, 2016

Arkansas Hospital and Pharmacist Associations are voicing opposition to increasing managed care in Arkansas, in advance of legislators’ vote on a range of Medicaid reforms expected Monday.

The associations say polling of Arkansas voters shows opposition to contracting with managed care companies, which claim to reduce costs and determine healthcare programs for patients. 

Brad Chism, of Chism Strategies, said likely voters responded negatively to managed care across ethnic and partisan lines. Surveyors spoke to 453 respondents. 

Asa Hutchinson healthcare
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Federal officials say they want to work with Gov. Asa Hutchinson on his plan to overhaul Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion but are expressing concerns about some of the restrictions potentially having "adverse impacts" on program participants.

Asa Hutchinson healthcare
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Governor Asa Hutchinson is defending Republican legislators backing his Medicaid expansion plan as early voting begins for Arkansas’s March 1 primary. 

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce for the first time is making independent expenditures in state legislative races. The expenditures are paying for mailers backing candidates who support Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Medicaid expansion plan, Arkansas Works.

Chamber President and CEO Randy Zook said Thursday that the expenditures were being made in “a couple, three Senate races; a couple, three House races.” He said the expenditures were being made to “people who have been targeted by other groups for defeat because of that single vote.”

Arkansas Surgeon General Gregory Bledsoe speaking at the winter meeting of the County Judges Association of Arkansas.
Association of Arkansas Counties

The surgeon general of Arkansas made the case to the County Judges Association of Arkansas at its winter meeting that continuing Medicaid expansion will help free up state funds for other programs, such as the governor's highway plan.

The president of the association, Judge David Hudson of Sebastian County, said the group may take a position before the special session on Medicaid expansion expected in April. 

File photo: Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters at the Capitol
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that his main proposed changes to the private option remain intact after his recent discussions with federal Department of Health and Human Services Director Sylvia Burwell.

Also, he unveiled the state’s new brand direction for its economic development efforts: “Arkansas Inc. When you’re in Arkansas, you’re in good company.”

Hutchinson made the announcement at the 2016 Joint Winter Conference of the Arkansas Economic Developers and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Cindy Gillespie
C-SPAN

A former health care adviser to Mitt Romney has been named the new director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Arkansans without health insurance have until the end of the month to apply for health insurance or face financial penalties.

Under the Affordable Care Act, those without coverage will be charged nearly $700 per adult, $300 per child, or 2.5 percent of the household's income if they don’t have coverage in 2016. According to the most recent 2014 Census Bureau statistics approximately 1 in 10, or nearly 300,000 Arkansans remain uninsured.

Bruce Donaldson with Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace said there are several reasons Arkansans remain uninsured.

Talk Business & Politics

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said his highway funding plan will work without raising taxes by finding government efficiencies and continuing with the state’s Medicaid expansion. Without those planks, Hutchinson says tax increases will enter the debate.

www.are.uscourts.gov

A federal judge has agreed to extend until March her order blocking Arkansas from enforcing new limits on the way the abortion pill is administered.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Monday granted the request by the state and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which is challenging the new limits. Baker had initially blocked the new law from taking effect until Jan. 14, and both sides had asked her to extend that order until March 14.

US Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) singing for the senate president pro temp to enroll an Affordable Care Act repeal bill into the Senate to be sent to the president's desk.
Cotton Press Office

US Senator Tom Cotton filled the ceremonial role of sending a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act to the president’s desk on Thursday. 

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he'd prefer one special session on the future of the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion and highway funding, but hasn't ruled out asking lawmakers to address the issues at separate times.

Hutchinson told reporters Wednesday he's meeting Feb. 1 with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell about his proposals to rename and add restrictions to the "private option." The program, crafted as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law, uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (left) and DHS Director John Selig presenting changes to Medicaid expansion in December.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

As expected the governor of Arkansas is asking federal officials to consider changes to the state's version of Medicaid expansion. 

Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson's office on Monday released a copy of the letter he sent to US Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announcing he's seeking a waiver for modifications. The letter was sent to Burwell December 29, 2015.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)
Governor's Office

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has told federal officials he wants to impose new limits on the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion that's providing coverage to more than 200,000 people. 

The owner of two Arkansas mental health companies that provide services for juveniles has pleaded not guilty to charges that he bribed a former top official of the state's Human Services Department.

Ted Suhl pleaded not guilty in federal court Friday to conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud, three counts of honest services fraud, one count of federal funds bribery and one count of interstate travel in aid of bribery. A jury trial is scheduled for Jan. 19.

Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe during a Health Care Task Force meeting in 2016.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A panel studying the future of Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion is shifting its focus to finding savings in the state's Medicaid program after issuing its preliminary report.

The Health Reform Legislative Task Force on Thursday approved its report on the "private option," which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. The panel on Wednesday endorsed Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's efforts to change and rename the program, which was crafted as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

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