Governor Hutchinson Talks Approval of ARHOME Medicaid Project, Omicron in Weekly Briefing

December 21, 2021

LITTLE ROCK – At his weekly news briefing today, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved a five-year Section 1115 Demonstration Project, “Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me (ARHOME)”. The Governor explained what this means for the state and for low-income adults eligible for the program.

Approval of ARHOME program
The approval of the section 1115 Demonstration Project (ARHOME) will allow Arkansas to continue to provide more than 300,000 low-income Arkansans with health coverage. The new waiver will also allow the state to use Medicaid funds to purchase coverage through qualified health plans, according to the announcement by Governor Hutchinson during his weekly briefing Tuesday.

“I want to thank Senator Irvin and Representative Gray for their sponsorship of the legislation that provides the authorization to pursue this waiver,” Governor Hutchinson said. “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.”

The approval will also allow Arkansas to continue working with CMS on the Life360 HOMEs that will provide extra aid to pregnant women, people who deal with mental illnesses, and for young people most at risk for long-term poverty.
There will also be greater emphasis on improving health outcomes, and holding the insurance carriers accountable for meeting health improvement targets.

In the briefing, the Governor noted that the administration did not approve the state’s request to continue to require individuals with income above 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to pay a share of premiums for their coverage. Based on discussions with the Administration, this was not unexpected. The current premium amount of $13 per month will continue for calendar year 2022 but not beyond.

Individuals currently enrolled with a qualified health plan will continue to be covered as the new year begins. DHS and AID have been working with the carriers for a smooth transition to ARHOME.

Last week, the first case of the Omicron variant was confirmed in Arkansas, and today the CDC announced that the Omicron variant is 73% of new COVID-19 cases across the country.

In the region that includes Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico Omicron variant is 92% of new COVID-19 cases.

“I spoke with the CDC and the White House as to the accuracy of this report,” Governor Hutchinson said. “The 92% is for the region and not particularly directed to Arkansas. It is a projection of the region based on the latest surveillance of data, regardless, if the current estimate is precise it is clear that Omicron is in our state, it is spreading rapidly, and it will define our prevention efforts for the coming months.”
Governor Hutchinson said that this projection gives the state an opportunity to act before Omicron peaks in Arkansas.
He noted that vaccines are effective against this variant and prevent serious cases.

In Arkansas, 62% of residents have received 1 dose and 51% have been fully vaccinated. The Governor noted that only 14% of Arkansans have received the booster dose and encouraged Arkansans to take the booster.

Tornado Damage
The Governor said that the damage estimates were completed this week and were submitted to FEMA and the President. He notes that President Biden said that they will properly review the estimates.

“I am comfortable to say that I believe we have met the federal threshold for a disaster declaration, we have submitted information on over 375 homes that were damaged or destroyed,” Governor Hutchinson said. “If we can qualify for federal assistance that will mean individual assistance that will help the homeowners.”

You can watch the full briefing HERE.

You can view the slide presentation from today’s briefing HERE.

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