Health Beat: Arkansas Private Option Could Be Model For Texas

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 61 views 

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, Talk Business & Politics provides “Health Beat,” a round-up of health-related topics in our email newsletter, which you can sign up to receive daily for free here.

“Despite exaggerated reports of its untimely death, Arkansas’ “Private Option” coverage expansion is alive, well, and in the black,” writes Anne Dunkelberg, blogger at Texas Well and Healthy.

One stat she touts is that in early months of the Arkansas waiver, legislators were concerned that the average enrollee premiums exceeded initial projections, “but those rates have since dropped—by $18 since their high in April 2014, from $498 to $480 — and are now well below the 2015 projected caps.”

“Texas has approximately one million U.S. citizen adults who are caught in the Coverage Gap. They are construction workers, home health aides, office clerks and others who don’t receive health insurance from their employers, and don’t qualify for other insurance options. 25 Texas business groups, health care leaders, and others are calling on the Legislature to accept our share of federal funding and expand coverage for Texans,” Dunkelberg writes.

Also of note, UnitedHealth Group has notified the Arkansas Insurance Department that it will apply to offer policies through the state’s Private Option health insurance exchange. UnitedHealth will join Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), the national BCBS Association, Centene Corp. and QualChoice in offering plans.

The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) will recognize a program developed by the Delta Regional Authority and the Department of Defense at its 38th Annual Rural Health Conference on Thursday, April 16. The DRA’s Innovative Readiness Training Medical Missions, a collaboration with the DOD, will be feted as one of the nation’s Outstanding Rural Health programs, along with The Rural Behavioral Health Primary Care Collaborative in Western Montana.

Both programs are among the eight 2015 Rural Health Award recipients that will be honored at the national health conference this week in Philadelphia, which is the largest gathering of rural health professionals in the nation. The DRA and Department of Defense’s program provides health care services to medically underserved rural communities throughout the Delta. The missions also serve as vital training exercises for military medical personnel in reserve forces.

On an economic development note, Chris Masingill, co-chairman of DRA, was also recently awarded with the Federal Leadership in Economic Development Programs Award by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), for his positive impact on economic development.

“The Federal Leadership Award honors a person in the federal government who successfully supports economic development on a national scale, and Chris Masingill embodies just such a person,” said JoAnn Crary, current chair of the IEDC board of directors.

Science Café Little Rock, co-sponsored by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), will hold its next public forum, “The 3-D Printing Tsunami,” on April 28. Panelists will discuss home, medical and industrial applications, materials and the educational opportunities of additive manufacturing, or “3-D printing” technology.

This month’s panel will include: Barbara Miller-Webb, a 3-D systems printing/scanning representative of D3 Technology in St. Louis; Travis Hill, director of simulation technology and outreach in the UAMS Simulation Center; and Advanced Placement chemistry and physics teacher Dwight Daugherty and student Landan Bullock, both from Cabot High School.

Science Café forums are held the fourth Tuesday of the month, except for July, August and December. Check out the website for information on monthly speakers and topics at

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)announced the availability of $1 million in grant funds to support community projects for the Community Interoperability Health Information Exchange (HIE) Program.

The funding will help enable the flow of health information at the community level in an effort to support better care and better health. The program will provide funds to up to ten community organizations, state or local government agencies, or other community groups.

“The flow of health information across the entire care continuum is a critical step to realizing a learning health system that results in not only better care, but healthier people and communities. The new Community Interoperability and HIE program will fund local efforts that will leverage health IT in support of a more comprehensive digital data picture of health for people and their communities,” said Karen DeSalvo, HHS national coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Under the new grant program, awardees will demonstrate the use of health IT to the wide range of health providers, including those that are not eligible under the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs. These include long-term and post-acute care providers, behavioral health providers, individuals and their caregivers, and other care setting and providers. These additional providers could also be safety net providers, public health, social service, emergency medical services and other key members of the care continuum.

The deadline for the submission of applications is 11:59 p.m. EDT on June 15, 2015. The submission application is available here.

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