Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

91st General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature

The 91st General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature officially began on January 9, 2017. An overview of the bills ACHI considers most relevant to health and health care in our state are available HERE.

Arkansas State Capitol

Summary of the 90th General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature

In preparation for the session, and based on policy positions and priorities expressed by the ACHI Health Policy Board, staff advanced legislative opportunities considered to have significant potential for enhancing the health and well-being of all Arkansans.

The following Health Policy Board position statements served as a guide for development of policy opportunities and for tracking legislation during the session. For a complete overview of ACHI Health Policy Board positions go to http://www.achi.net/Docs/207/.

  • Maintain continued funding to provide fiscal access to health care for financially vulnerable populations.
  • Establish systems to increase access to care by developing a comprehensive Arkansas telemedicine initiative.
  • Establish mechanisms that promote transparency in the state health care and insurance industries to assure fair insurance premiums and appropriate provider reimbursement rates, and to evaluate and target health initiatives.
  • Include e-cigarettes as a regulated and taxable tobacco product.
  • Assure continued maintenance of programs to reduce childhood obesity and increase physical activity.
  • Secure ongoing funding for the Arkansas Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and enhance mechanisms for reducing prescription drug abuse.
  • Maintain all health promotion and disease prevention legislation inclusive of vehicular safety initiatives, fluoridation, and elimination of environmental tobacco exposure.

Over 230 bills were tracked during the course of the session. ACHI leadership was active in advancing legislative initiatives aimed at strengthening or defending former legislative actions as well as supporting new statewide activities such as telemedicine and promoting health system transparency.

In the 2015 regular session, a total of 2,105 bills and resolutions were filed – 1,034 in the House and 1,071 in the Senate. Of those 1,288 became law.

In the closing days of the session, the legislature recommended referring three proposed constitutional amendments to voters in next year's general election.

  • SJR 3 would allow the governor to retain his or her powers when out of state.
  • SJR 16 would expand the authority of state and local governments to issue revenue bonds for economic development projects.
  • HJR 1027 would extend the terms of county officials, such as county judge and sheriff, from two to four years.

Here are highlights from the session.

Health Care Independence Program (Private Option)

The Health Care Independence Program (HCIP) is Arkansas’s innovative use of premium assistance to finance health care coverage through the private market for low-income Arkansans. The program is currently funded 100 percent by the federal government. However, if the program is continued into 2017 and beyond Arkansas would be required to pay a portion of the cost beginning at 5percent and increasing each to a maximum of 10 percent in 2020 and beyond.

Legislation passed as Act 46 ends the current HCIP at the end of 2016 and establishes a 16-member task force to look at alternatives for covering the more than 200,000 people on the program along with longer-term changes to the state's Medicaid system. Governor Hutchinson has also created an Advisory Council on Medicaid Reform to work with the Legislative Task Force on Health Care Reform to identify more efficient and effective reforms for the Medicaid program. ACHI Director, Dr. Joe Thompson is a member of this advisory council.

Telemedicine and Health Data Transparency

Act 887 provides a step forward in development of more comprehensive use of telemedicine by providing a definition of telemedicine and establishing clinical protocols and an equitable payment structure for its use.

The Arkansas Health Care Transparency Initiative was created with passage of Act 1233. The initiative will use data on paid claims submitted by health insurance carriers to evaluate health-related programs, conduct research, develop policy and provide consumers with information they can use in making informed health care decisions.

E-Cigarettes and Prescription Drug Monitoring

Act 847 bans the use of e-cigarettes on college campuses. Act 1235 requires that vapor shops be licensed and imposes regulations on the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes, including use of the tobacco surveillance program to enforce the existing law against the sale of e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery systems to minors.

Arkansas’s prescription drug monitoring program was strengthened through passage of Act 411 authorizing the Department of Health to notify the appropriate professional licensing board when it identifies a prescriber or dispenser who may be dispensing drugs in a manner that could indicate misuse or abuse of drugs.

Fluoridated Drinking Water and Graduated Driver Licensing

HB1355 if passed would have undermined Act197 of 2011 requiring that municipalities with 5,000 or more citizens maintain fluoride content in drinking water as established by the Arkansas Department of Health.

SB783 as originally introduced would have eliminated the state’s expanded graduated driver license (GDL) process for teen drivers enacted in 2009. A report produced by ACHI in partnership with the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital shows significant reductions in vehicle crashes and fatalities involving teen drivers.

The final amended version of the bill passed as Act 1049 with core GDL requirements intact.

Arkansas Center for Health Improvement
1401 West Capitol
Suite 300 (Victory Building)
Little Rock, AR 72201