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Here is where you can find news about Jonesboro, Craighead County, and Arkansas at large, as well as news for Missouri and Tennessee.

Biden administration grants approval for new Arkansas Medicaid expansion initiatives

 Mark White, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, speaks to reporters alongside Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View.
Daniel Breen
/
KUAR News
Mark White, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, speaks to reporters alongside Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View.

Officials with the Arkansas Department of Human Services say the federal government has granted their request to roll out new services under the state’s Medicaid expansion program.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Tuesday it approved Arkansas’ waiver for the Life360 HOMEs program for enrollees in the state’s Medicaid expansion, known as ARHOME.

“Everyone deserves the chance to receive the care they need to live safe and healthy lives,” said Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to expanding access to health care and strengthening Medicaid is key to this effort. We are proud to work with Arkansas to further these efforts and urge other states to do the same.”

Mark White, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, applauded the waiver approval in a news conference at the state Capitol.

“We’re very excited about it, glad that the federal government is allowing us to move forward with this,” White said. “We think this is going to generate some great outcomes for our state, both in terms of health outcomes for Arkansans but as well as financial outcomes for our management and for the long-term sustainability of our state’s Medicaid system.”

The program will seek to provide a higher level of care to address maternal health, mental illness, substance abuse and health of veterans and those formerly in the state’s corrections and foster care systems. Hospitals will contract with community organizations and home health services to provide the new resources.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he expects the program will help to cut down on healthcare costs, saving the state money in the long run.

“A good example is if you have a high-risk pregnancy and you limit services to at birth, they wind up in the [neonatal intensive care unit] where they have to have specialized care. And if we can improve those health outcomes, reduce the costs for those at-risk pregnancies, then that helps us budget-wise as well,” Hutchinson said.

The new initiatives will be based at hospitals around the state, which will receive monthly payments from DHS based on the number of patients they’re currently serving under the program.

Hutchinson says the state will cover 20% of the $16 million cost of the Life360 HOMEs program, with the federal government footing the bill for the rest. He said he has authorized $3.2 million from the state’s general revenue fund to go toward the project, which DHS officials say could begin as early as January.

Hutchinson, who leaves office in January due to term limits, was asked in Tuesday’s news conference whether the program is likely to survive a change in administrations. He said, while the state’s Medicaid expansion initially struggled to find legislative support, he envisions lawmakers will continue to re-authorize the program, which provides health insurance to more than 300,000 Arkansans.

“It’s a success story because we’ve controlled the cost and we’ve maintained our commitment to the legislature, to the public, that we’re going to make this work from a cost standpoint,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve improved access to healthcare, we’ve controlled the cost of it… and the legislature has been a watchdog on both of those aspects.”

Copyright 2022 KUAR. To see more, visit KUAR.

Daniel Breen is a third-year undergraduate journalism student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.