Arkansas Governor Announces Rural Health Coverage with Medicaid Program

HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) – Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that 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 previous version of the Medicaid expansion health coverage program in Arkansas, earlier this year.

ARHOME provides health care coverage for eligible Arkansans, using Medicaid dollars to purchase health care coverage (Qualified Health Plans [QHPs]) for customers. 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 support they will make available to Arkansans across this state have the potential to make a profound impact on the health of our citizens,” has Gov. Hutchinson said.

Rural health coverage is an ongoing problem that the state has been working on. This is felt by citizens in places like Carroll County, who often drive several hours for services outside of primary care.

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

Cline says she attends not only her own doctor’s appointments, but all of her mothers’ as well, which she says usually require a ride.

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

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

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

How this will directly affect rural health facilities is still uncertain, but Pitman says community collaboration is the key starting point.

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

Boston Mountain Rural Health Center is a leading provider throughout Carroll County, recently opening 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 health care 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 ensure continuity of care through a primary care home.”

CLICK HERE for more information on LIFE 360.

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