Arkansas Healthcare

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.

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

Arkansas’s Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson is moving forward with Medicaid expansion and seeking federal approval for new adjustments to what has been known as the private option. The Health Care Task Force endorsed Hutchinson’s proposal Wednesday.

Health Care Task Force Chair, Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) during a break in the meeting.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A task force is finalizing its recommendations on the future of Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion, which the state's Republican governor has said he wants to keep but with new restrictions on its benefits and eligibility.

The Health Reform Legislative Task Force on Tuesday kicked off three days of hearings to talk about the future of the "private option" expansion, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. The program was crafted as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Jacqueline Froelich / KUAF

The Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, headquartered in Little Rock, operates the state-based health insurance exchange in accordance with both state and federal law. On November 1, the state marketplace opened the Small Business Health Options Program, SHOP for short.

The following is a transcript of Governor Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of Dec. 11, 2015:

Almost a year ago, I announced my support for a legislative task force to determine the future of the Medicaid program in Arkansas. This Healthcare Task Force is set to make recommendations in the near future.

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proposed replacement for the private option, “Arkansas Works,” should encourage employer-based insurance, incentivize work, and ensure program integrity through a variety of means, including potentially an asset test for recipients, Hutchinson said Tuesday.

Speaking to the Arkansas Medicaid Educational Conference, Hutchinson (R) made it clear the private option will not continue in its current form, saying, “Please understand very carefully that on Dec. 31, 2016, the private option ends. The private option ends.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has directed the Department of Human Services to pause development of its $112-million-over-budget computerized Medicaid Enrollment and Eligibility Framework (EEF) after receiving a report from a consultant recommending he do so.

State Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville).
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

A legislative task force looking at the future of Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid program is nearing a deadline for recommendations.

Rep. Charlie Collins, chairman of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force, told members Tuesday that they will vote at the December meeting on recommendations for the program and for overall changes to the Medicaid system. Consultants reviewed options for cost savings under different managed care models during the first portion of Tuesday's meeting and will continue talks during the afternoon.

Arkansas Children's Hospital

Arkansas hospitals are doing better than some of their counterparts in other states that did not expand their Medicaid populations, a new study by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement finds.

In 2013, Arkansas legislators voted to expand Arkansas’ Medicaid population through the Arkansas Health Care Independence Program, better known as the private option. The program uses state Medicaid dollars to purchase private insurance for Arkansans with incomes of no more than 138% of the federal poverty line. Many states, meanwhile, chose not to expand their populations.

John Stephen The Stephen Group
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Arkansas should consider requiring recipients to pay part of their health care costs or risk losing their coverage in its next version of the private option – if the federal government will let it do so. If so, it could learn from the experiences of other states, said a consulting group to legislators Tuesday.

healthcare accelerator warwick sabin troy wells asa hutchinson
KATV, Channel 7 News

A joint effort by Baptist Health and the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub has been formed to accelerate the development of up to 10 health care-related startup companies.

Four hospital providers, including Baptist Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield are creating a shared services organization to reduce duplication, share costs and improve care.

The Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas also includes Jonesboro-based St. Bernards Healthcare and Fayetteville-based Washington Regional Medical System. Washington Regional President and CEO Bill Bradley was elected chairman.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has rethought two of his seven proposed changes to the Medicaid private option, proposed renaming it “Arkansas Works,” and supports a managed care system for high-cost Medicaid populations after reviewing a report by a health care consultant hired by state legislators.

Cheryl Smith Gardner, Executive Director Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Board and board member Mike Castleberry speaking to a legislative committee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) that provides insurance for small business employees is ready to launch Nov. 1 and has already enrolled its first employer, officials announced Wednesday.

At the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace’s Little Rock headquarters, Jim Miles, president of Jonesboro-based insurance broker Covenant Medical Benefits, said his company had enrolled eight employees quickly and easily.

“Simply put, it works,” he said.

A legislative panel is asking Arkansas' insurance commissioner to expand the definition of small businesses so more companies can purchase coverage for their employees through a marketplace.

The Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Legislative Oversight Committee on Thursday voted to ask Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr to change the definition to businesses with 100 or fewer employees. The state defines a small business as having between 2 and 50 employees.

DHS Director John Selig, Michael Leavitt, DHS Andy Allison (Left to Right)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Many of the 42,891 Arkansas Medicaid and private option recipients whom a consultant says may live out of state have already been terminated from those programs, legislators were told Tuesday.

Also, Department of Human Services Director John Selig said some Medicaid, services should be administered through a private managed care company. Selig and Deputy Director Mark White testified before the Health Care Legislative Task Force, the group of legislators who are considering reforms to Medicaid and the private option.

A medical device company is expanding its manufacturing facility in north Arkansas and says it will be adding 225 jobs during the next five years.

Baxter International Inc. announced Thursday it is expanding its Mountain Home facility, which has been in operation since 1964. The current plant is 55,000 square feet and employs about 1,000 people.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said Wednesday he’s looking “outside the norm” in finding a replacement for departing Department of Human Services Director John Selig.

Governor asa hutchinson talk business & politics
Talk Business & Politics

Gov. Asa Hutchinson reflected on his recent trade trip to Cuba, takeaways from a major health reform report released this week, and criteria for replacing departing Human Services director John Selig.

Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics with Roby Brock, Hutchinson said he’ll turn first to the private business sector to replace Selig, who announced he’d leave the top Department of Human Services post by the end of this year.

Governor Asa Hutchinson John Selig Medicaid DHS Department of Human Services
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services John Selig announced on Wednesday he will resign at the end of the year. Selig served longer than anyone else at the helm of the state’s largest agency. 

healthcare hearing stephen group
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A consultant firm hired by Arkansas legislators is recommending the state consider continuing its Medicaid expansion program – in some form - with adjustments. The private option, or Health Care Independence Program, would be retooled and branded as T-HIP, the Transitional  Health Independence Program.

The number of Arkansans removed from the state Medicaid rolls has increased by 51 in the past week, but the number reinstated has increased by 2,734.

That’s according to figures supplied Monday by Amy Webb, Department of Human Services spokesperson, following a meeting of the House and Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committees.

If you’re attacked by a turkey today, Arkansas medical providers will submit claims under one set of codes. If it happens tomorrow, they’ll use a different set – if they’re ready.

UAMS campus in Little Rock.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is now displaying ratings and comments about their physicians online.

UAMS says a physician's rating will be posted online once he or she has at least 30 completed surveys from patients.

UAMS says it's the first medical center in Arkansas to post the ratings online. UAMS Chancellor Dr. Dan Rahn says the center has been surveying patients for years and that sharing the details online can help patients make better decisions about their health care.

Coverage so far has ended for 60,348 Arkansans served by the private option and traditional Medicaid, but of those, 11,292 had their coverage reinstated after it was determined they were eligible.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking a panel to put the state's plans to establish its own insurance exchange on hold as lawmakers look at the future of the state's Medicaid expansion.


Patients in Arkansas could establish a relationship with a doctor through a real-time audiovisual visit instead of an in-person visit under proposed regulations described by the State Medical Board Telemedicine Advisory Committee Wednesday.


Should patients be able to receive medical care over the internet from a doctor with whom they’ve never had a face-to-face meeting? Under current Arkansas law, they can’t.