Governor pushes waiver for ARHOME, creates cyber advisory committee

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 952 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday (June 15) said he would meet soon with federal officials to secure waivers for the state’s latest version of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act – ARHOME – and he said he will create an advisory council to prepare the state for cyberattacks that are becoming more prevalent.

ARHOME stands for Arkansas Health & Opportunity for Me. It retains the private insurance model for purchasing health plans for participants like the private option and Arkansas Works did. The federal government will cover about 90% of the funding, while the state pays for the remaining 10%. Under current scenarios, on average, the state is responsible for about $200 million per year – $1.032 billion over five-years – for Arkansas Works premium supplements.

Unlike Arkansas Works, there is no work requirement, but there are incentives to work. Arkansas’ work requirement was struck down by a federal lawsuit and is pending review at the U.S. Supreme Court. Beyond regular insurance, ARHOME creates three silos for handling healthcare scenarios. They are:

  • RuralLife360 – To help those in rural Arkansas, especially citizens with fewer access points;
  • MaternalLife360 – For pregnant women and families; and
  • SuccessLife360 – To help veterans, those who were incarcerated, and those once in foster care or the Division of Youth Services (DYS).

ARHOME was passed in the recent legislative session.

The governor said he hoped the Biden administration would quickly approve ARHOME to allow for its implementation in state.

“I fully expect the waiver to be approved by the end of the year,” Hutchinson said. He acknowledged that federal health and human services officials could alter or request changes to the plan through the waiver process, but he predicted that any changes would not necessitate legislative action.

“If the waiver is consistent with the legal parameters, it wouldn’t have to go back to the legislature,” he said.

Hutchinson also outlined a new effort to protect state and local governments from the increasing threat of cyberattacks. He noted there has been a 1,400% increase in cyberattacks against public entities in each of the last two years.

“We’ve invested more in cyber protection, in enhancing our security in our systems, but we have to do more,” he said.

The Arkansas Cyber Advisory Council aims to identify and manage the risk of cyberattacks and to enhance the state’s response to threats and attacks, Hutchinson said.

“The hacks of the Colonial pipeline and JBS Foods were an urgent reminder that cybercriminals are actively looking for targets,” Hutchinson said. “Many industries, such as agriculture, are ripe for attack. As farmers and ranchers move more of their business to computers, the risk of cyberattacks on our food supply grows. The Advisory Council will recommend a path to strengthen our defenses against high-tech attacks.”

The 12 appointees to the council are:

  • Jonathan Askins, director of the Division of Information Systems and Chief Technology Officer
  • Gary Vance, state Chief Information Security Officer, Division of Information Systems
  • Mike Preston, secretary of the Department of Commerce
  • Jami Cook, secretary of the Department of Public Safety
  • Dr. José Romero, secretary of the Department of Health
  • Cindy Gillespie, secretary of the Department of Human Services
  • Johnny Key, secretary of the Department of Education
  • Major General Kendall Penn, secretary of the Arkansas Military Department
  • Alan McClain, commissioner, Arkansas Insurance Department
  • A.J. Gary, director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management
  • Colonel (Retired) Steve Eggensperger, Governor’s Office Cybersecurity liaison
  • Lee Watson, Forge Institute

Askins will chair the committee.