Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Labor Secretary Daryl Basset and Cindy Gillespie, director of the state Department of Human Services

Arkansa Gov. Asa Hutchinson (right) with Daryl Bassett (left), secretary of the Arkansas Department of Labor and licensing, and Cindy Gillespie, the director of the state Department of Human Services.

(The Center Square) – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved the state’s Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me (ARHOME) Medicaid expansion program that Gov. Asa Hutchinson said will save the state $3 billion over the next five years.

Arkansas will receive $9.8 billion from the federal government for the program, according to information from the governor’s office. The state would have received $6.8 billion under a traditional fee-for-Medicaid service. The program is 90% federally funded, and the state is responsible for the other 10%.

ARHOME would replace Arkansas Works, which provides private health care coverage for residents who have an income 138% below the poverty line. ARHOME has the same eligibility requirements.

CMS denied a request from the state that would require individuals who make more than 100% above the poverty threshold to pay premiums for their coverage, Hutchinson said. Residents who currently pay $13 a month would no longer make those payments after 2022.

A new executive-legislative oversight panel will review the strategic plans and make recommendations for improvements for ARHOME, according to an August presentation on the program.

ARHOME targets some of the health care issues facing the state. One of those components is maternal health. Arkansas ranks 49th in maternal health outcomes, according to Hutchinson. ARHOME provides in-home visits to at-risk mothers and children.

The program also sets aside money for acute mental health crises and substance abuse services, with an emphasis on the state’s rural residents where there is a shortage of mental health professionals. The Rural Life360 HOME initiative would provide access to mental health screenings to all Arkansas residents, according to the application filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Success Life360 HOMEs targets residents between the ages of 19 and 27 who were in foster care, veterans between the ages of 19 and 30 and young adults who have been incarcerated. The program will offer education and training opportunities, according to the program application.

The Legislature approved the bill that created the ARHOME program in March. The bill sponsors were Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Bethesda.

"I want to thank Senator Irvin and Representative Gray for their sponsorship of the legislation that provides the authorization to pursue this waiver," Hutchinson said during his recent weekly briefing. "This comes at the right time so that 300,000 Arkansans can be confident of continued health care coverages as we go into the new year.”

Associate Editor

Kim Jarrett's career spans over 30 years with stops in radio, print and television. She has won awards from both the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia Association of Broadcasters.