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Lawmakers release alternative to Hutchinson's managed care plan

by The Associated Press | April 5, 2016 at 11:03 a.m. | Updated April 5, 2016 at 5:20 p.m.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, with Department of Human Services Director Cindy Gillespie, addresses his Medicaid advisory council Wednesday at the Capitol on his agenda for the Medicaid special session.

5:20 P.M. UPDATE:

Lawmakers opposed to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's managed care legislation are leaving open the possibility they'll try with a competing proposal during this week's special session.

The group of lawmakers Tuesday released their proposal to have the state hire private firms to coordinate services for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill. Unlike Hutchinson's proposal, under the competing plan Arkansas would continue paying Medicaid providers directly.

Hutchinson earlier Tuesday said he wouldn't include his managed care proposal on the session agenda at the urging of legislative leaders.

Democratic Sen. Keith Ingram, who backs the competing proposal, said he thinks it's germane to Hutchinson's session proclamation and wouldn't rule out supporters bringing the measure up if there are enough votes for it.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

EARLIER:

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday dropped his proposal to have private firms manage some services for the disabled and mentally ill, saying he'll limit this week's legislative session to his hybrid Medicaid expansion proposal.

The Republican governor formally called lawmakers back to the Capitol on Wednesday to take up his plan to keep and rework the hybrid expansion, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor. Hutchinson dropped his managed care proposal at the urging of House and Senate leaders, who said they weren't sure the plan had support.

Hutchinson had proposed contracting with private firms to manage Medicaid services for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill, a move he said would save the state money. He had pledged to use some of the projected savings from the plan to cut in half the state's waiting list for home and community based services for the developmentally disabled.

The plan faced resistance from Democrats and some Republicans who said managed care would mean cuts in services by the private firms. A group of lawmakers opposed to the move had proposed a competing plan under which the state would hire private firms to coordinate care but would continue paying Medicaid providers directly.

Hutchinson said he didn't have a timeline for trying again with his managed care proposal.

The governor dropped the plan as he faces sharp divisions among fellow Republicans on his plan to keep the state's hybrid expansion. Created three years ago as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law, the program is providing subsidized coverage to more than 250,000 people.

Hutchinson has proposed renaming the program Arkansas Works and adding new restrictions, including charging premiums for some participants. Hutchinson said he's focused now on getting the simple majority needed to approve his expansion proposal, but the budget bill keeping the program alive will require a three-fourths vote in both chambers in a separate session that starts next week.

Democrats have been more unified than Republicans in supporting the expansion, but party leaders say they're wary of any changes that could make it harder for those on the program to keep their coverage.

"We want to be supportive of Arkansas Works but as I've said, we don't want to vote for policy that could be made better strictly out of fear of what could be worse," said House Minority Leader Michael John Gray, a Democrat from August.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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