Arkansas governor announces rural health coverage with Medicaid program

Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 5:28 PM CST
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the state’s request to expand and adjust the Medicaid Program in the state was approved last Tuesday.

Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me (ARHOME), replaced Arkansas Works, the prior version of the Medicaid expansion health coverage program in Arkansas, earlier this year.

ARHOME offers health care coverage for eligible Arkansans, using Medicaid dollars to buy health care coverage (Qualified Health Plans [QHPs]) for clients. The amendment expands coverage with a new program called LIFE 360, which focused on providing specialized care in rural areas of the state.

“These Life360 HOMEs are a critical component of the ARHOME program, and the additional services and supports that they will make available to Arkansans across this state have the potential to make a profound impact on the health of our citizens,” said Gov. Hutchinson.

Rural health coverage is an ongoing problem the state has worked to address. It is felt by citizens in places like Carroll County, who often drive several hours for services beyond primary care.

“It’s usually Fayetteville, Springfield, Rogers. But usually, it is a good hour to two-hour drive,” said Patricia Cline, a Berryville resident.

Cline says not only does she attend her own doctors’ appointments but all of her mothers as well, which she says usually require a drive.

“Any kind of specialist we have to get her there. For a while my sister and I were taking her in our own vehicle,” she said. “Now the nursing home takes her, but we still have to be there.”

The state has worked through the Arkansas Department of Human Resources (ADHS) to develop the plan for LIFE 360, which is targeting maternal, mental, and substance abuse care.

“In rural areas in particular, sometimes it is a 30-minute drive, and then maybe that doctor’s office has one or two physicians seeing that whole community,” said Elizabeth Pitman, ADHS director of the division for medical services. “So the number of individual rendering providers is not sufficient, especially in most communities with the behavioral health space.”

How it will directly impact rural health facilities is still unsure, but Pitman says community collaboration is the key starting point.

“Step one is getting hospitals to sign up,” she said. “So we are working on that right now, working with Hospital associations and rural health associations, things like that.”

Boston Mountain Rural Health Center is a leading provider across Carroll County, which recently opened a new primary facility in Eureka Springs earlier this year. Boston Mountain provided the following statement to KY3, which read in part:

“The three focus areas of the Life360 program should provide greater access to intensive services needed to improve outcomes and support a healthier Arkansas. To be successful, it will require community collaboration with healthcare providers who are also working to address those needs in our communities. It will be our goal to work as closely as possible with the Life360 hospitals and other community partners in our service area to assure continuity of care through a primary care home.”

CLICK HERE for more information on LIFE 360.

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