Arkansas Gets OK to Expand Rural Health Services Under Medicaid

Arkansas Gets OK to Expand Rural Health Services Under Medicaid
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announces on Nov. 1, 2022 that a state initiative to expand rural health services under ARHOME has received federal approval. (Arkansas Governor's Office)

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday approved Arkansas' request to add new rural health services under the state's Medicaid expansion, ARHOME.

The state initiative, called Life360 Homes, will focus on women with high-risk pregnancies, people with mental illness or substance abuse disorders, and young adults who are most at risk of long-term poverty and poor health. 

It aims to reduce the state's high maternal and infant mortality rates, fill gaps in the continuum of care for individuals with mental and substance abuse diagnoses, and increase active participation among beneficiaries to improve their health and address health-related social needs.

Arkansas will pay for 20% of the $16 million program, while the federal government will cover the rest. 

"These are very vulnerable populations and if we can improve their health outcomes and their access to addiction treatment ... or whether it's some other health need, then we're not only going to improve their life outcome, but we're going to reduce the cost of health care that's associated with the at-risk population," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a news conference Tuesday.

The program is designed to supplement, not replace, existing services. It also provides support for hospitals, especially those in rural areas.

For women with high-risk pregnancies, intensive care coordination will be provided through home-visiting programs before and after birth. Services will be provided during pregnancy and up to 24 months after the baby is born. More than 12,000 women in the state had high-risk pregnancies last year, according to Hutchinson.

For those with mental and substance abuse disorders, care will be coordinated through coaches employed by rural hospitals. Monthly funding will also provided to operate crisis units at the hospitals.

The initiative will provide support to at-risk young adults by providing care coordination directly or contracting with community organizations to do so. It will target those from age 19 to 24 who have associated poor health outcomes due to involvement in the foster care system, prior incarceration, or involvement with the juvenile justice system. Military veterans from age 19 to 30 who are at high risk of homelessness will also be targeted.

A provider must be a general or critical access hospital with 50 or fewer beds located in a rural area of the state.