Banner Year in Arkansas: The Top 10 Business Stories of 2013

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 12:00 am  

Other Republicans, including House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, supported the private option, which ultimately passed both chambers with the necessary supermajority in April.

Gov. Mike Beebe signed the bill into law on April 23, even before final approval of the private option variation on Medicaid expansion was received from Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health & Human Services.

Enrollment for the private option opened Oct. 1, although the glitches with the government’s website,, hampered efforts. Officials said nearly 80,000 people had applied for private option coverage through the end of November. Coverage will start Jan. 1.

The private option law has annual appropriations that require approval by a 75 percent supermajority each year as a safeguard for the state if federal funding for the Medicaid expansion drops. Opponents have already said they plan to defeat the funding for the private option when the Legislature reconvenes for a fiscal session in February.

4. Hospital Deals

The looming shakeup in the health care industry has encouraged hospital consolidation, but in Arkansas, 2013 was the year of hospital deals that never materialized.

The first breakdown occurred in June. Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tenn., and Mercy Health of Chesterfield, Mo., ended talks that involved Mercy selling its nonprofit Hot Springs hospital to the for-profit, Capella, which operates National Park Medical Center in the same city.

The health care organizations had been ironing out the details of the transaction since 2012. But the deal faced opposition from the start, prompting one director on Mercy’s national board to resign. Had Mercy and Capella not called off the sale, the Federal Trade Commission said, it was prepared to challenge the proposed transaction, citing the likely anticompetitive harm that would have resulted.

Within months, though, Mercy found another buyer. In October, it announced that it had signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell the Mercy Hot Springs hospital and physician clinic to Catholic Health Initiatives and its affiliate, St. Vincent Health System in Little Rock. That deal is pending, but it didn’t receive as much pushback from the community because both Mercy and St. Vincent are private, Catholic-owned institutions.

The second major deal that collapsed involved St. Vincent. It had been in talks with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences of Little Rock since August 2012, in what both sides adamantly described as an affiliation or alliance for the purpose of cost savings. But because St. Vincent is affiliated with the Catholic Church and UAMS is publicly owned, an agreement between the two was fraught with church-state complications.

The parties jointly called off talks in July.

But it wasn’t all disappointing news for hospitals. Hot Spring County Medical Center had been looking for a partner since 2012 and found one in Baptist Health of Little Rock in 2013.

Baptist will begin operating the 72-bed hospital in Malvern, which will be renamed Baptist Health Medical Center-Hot Spring County, on Jan. 1.



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