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Posted by AMHC

As the 2017 legislative session came to a close Monday, several health care bills made their way to the governor’s desk while others weren’t so fortunate. Arkansas Minority Health Commission tracked certain bills that pertained to: changes in the Medicaid programs; research efforts in various diseases; expansion of services to Arkansas minority groups and to the developmentally disabled; and other health related bills.
Here are the bills we kept our eyes and featured in our weekly “Minority Reports”:

House Bill 1033 was signed by the governor on Jan. 27, 2017, as Act: 50. The bill “amends the Tobacco Settlement Proceed Act to extend medical assistance and community-based services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

House Bill 1034 was signed by the governor on March 6, 2017, as Act: 373. The bill “makes various changes to regulations for hearing instrument dispensers.”

House Bill 1035 was amended several times, but was never signed or withdrawn. The bill “names specific food products, drinks and supplements that a SNAP recipient is not allowed to purchase using benefits. Requires recipients to show identification when purchasing items, and requires vendors to verify identification at point of sale.”

House Bill 1182 was amended several times, but was never signed or withdrawn. The bill “authorizes an advanced practice registered nurse to be recognized as a primary care provider under the Arkansas Medicaid Program.”

House Bill 1300 was amended several times, but was never signed or withdrawn. The bill “requires the Department of Huma Services and Medicaid to prioritize funding for the Developmental Disabilities Waiver Program, and to fully fund home and community-based services for individuals on the waiting list within three years.”

House Bill 1465 was amended several times, but was never signed or withdrawn. The bill “requires DHS to stop new enrollment in the Medicaid Expansion plan on July 1, 2017.”

House Bill 1775 was signed by the governor on March 31, 2017, as Act: 811. The bill “requires the Department of Health to establish and maintain a Suicide Prevention Hotline.”

Senate Bill 146 was signed by the governor on Feb. 17, 2017, as Act: 203. The bill “repeals the existing statues governing telemedicine and establishes new standards for the practice of telemedicine, including the prior existence of a professional relationship between patient and physician among other regulations.”

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Posted by AMHC

A bill to implement an Arkansas operated suicide prevention hotline was passed through House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee Tuesday.

Arkansas calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are filtered to nearby states like Tennessee because Arkansas currently does not have a hotline. In recent years, the state has moved from No. 16 to No. 10 for the highest rate of suicides in the nation.

House Bill 1775, sponsored by Rep. Bob Johnson, proposed a mandate to the Department of Health to establish and maintain a suicide prevention hotline.

It was noted in committee if 70 percent of Arkansas calls to the National Prevention Hotline are not answered in Arkansas, the state will lose approximately $1.4 million in suicide prevention dollars.

Advocates for the bill stated that approximately 571 Arkansans die of suicide each year and more die from suicide than vehicle wrecks and homicides. It was also stated that a person is two and one-half times more likely to die of suicide than of homicide.

With no testimony against the bill, lawmakers were informed that multiple state organizations backed the bill referencing the hotline is important for veterans and could also assist family members.

A similar bill, House Bill 1705, is set for amending.

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Posted by AMHC

Trying to rein in the Medicaid Expansion program, House Public Health Committee members passed House Bill 1465 that would put a freeze on enrollment.

House Bill 1465, sponsored by Rep. Josh Miller, proposes the state “to create the Medicaid Expansion Enrollment Freeze Act of 2017; and to declare an emergency.”  After Miller’s bill, House Bill 1300, failed in committee on Feb. 7 for concerns of Arkansas’s ability to fund the bill, Miller proposed HB1465 would stop any future over flux of enrollees under the Medicaid Expansion program.

The bill proposes that no new enrollment could happen after July 1, 2017, but those already applied and or are enrolled do have the ability to re-enroll in the plan.  Miller did say that block grants could be a possibility for funding and that the bill has “no bearing on traditional Medicaid services.” If the bill is later signed by the Governor, a formal request to the Arkansas Department of Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would be submitted to shut down the program.

Advocates for the bill stated that in Washington D.C., Congress is looking into having states pay 20 percent in Medicaid as opposed to the state’s 5 percent rate it is currently funding. They were concerned that if Congress was to require the state to fund 20 percent of Medicaid that the state could not afford to do so.

Some advocates testified their personal anecdotes of their experience with the Arkansas Works program where a relative was automatically enrolled in the program without consent after having a child. They said that once they were notified, they fought to get off the program. Advocates said there could be some flaws in the program that are at the tax payers’ expense and the legislature needed to “close the front door” on the program.

Proponents were afraid that the bill would freeze the program at a lower rate before the federal government made a decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Some suggested Arkansas may be “jumping the gun” and possibly putting a hole in the state’s budget. They inquired how many would be “left out in the cold” to be uninsured. Proponents also said that the bill would increase the number of uninsured Arkansans and it could increase insurance premiums.

For hospitals, it was suggested that with an increase of uninsured Arkansans, hospitals would have an increase of uncompensated costs. They said if funding is taken out of one “payment bucket,” then some will be taken out of a different “payment bucket,” as well.

With a 13-6 roll call vote, the House Public Health Committee passed HB1465 to “put the brakes on” the Medicaid Expansion program

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