spoke before the state's Tobacco Settlement Commission
's quarterly meeting today, trumpeting his effort to redirect some of the unused tobacco settlement money to reduce the number of people stuck on a waiting list for a Medicaid waiver program that provides home- and community-based services to individuals with developmental disabilities (DD).
The legislature this year passed Act 50, backed by the governor, which diverted $8.5 million from the settlement fund to the Alternative Community Services Waiver Program. Because the federal government also pays for a portion of the program, this also triggered the release of $20 million from the feds (providing the waiver program costs around $50,000 per person per year; the state has to pay 30 percent of those costs, with the feds picking up the rest).
These funds allowed the state to reduce the DD waiting list — which previously had 3,000 families on it — by 500. That still leaves a significant number of families without access to services, which Hutchinson acknowledged today:
This is a great success story. Of course, we can’t stop with the 500 families. My goal today is to eliminate that waiting list, and you all started that process.
In March of 2016, the governor promised
to cut the wait list in half within three years.
The $8.5 million in question previously funded AR Health Networks, a small health insurance program that was rendered obsolete when Arkansas began making subsidized insurance available to almost all low-income citizens via Medicaid expansion.
A bit of background that must be noted: Funding to reduce or eliminate the wait list and provide services that families desperately need has long been available
via the Affordable Care Act's Community First Choice Option
, but Arkansas legislators have prioritized symbolic opposition to Obamacare and refused to seek that federal funding stream (certain current stakeholders, such as private nursing homes and human development centers, also oppose CFCO).
Hutchinson said last year that CFCO was "off the table."