Governor Touts $116M Aid Package To Shore Up State’s Health Care Industry

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday announced a $116 million package to shore up the state’s health care industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is geared toward this emergency, specifically. This plan will provide improved access to care for Arkansas citizens and will keep the doors of Arkansas’ health care providers open and their workforce employed. Health care today cannot be delivered just like it was two weeks ago,” he said during his daily coronavirus news conference.

The state will pay for $25 million of the plan, Hutchinson said, with the federal government picking up the rest of the tab. The package will be paid for with Medicaid dollars, not general revenue.

A federal waiver is required, and he expects that to be fast-tracked.

The governor said the plan includes: 

  • Additional payments to certain health care workers. Non-physician direct care workers, primarily nurses, will receive $1,000 a month. Those in a facility treating COVID-19 patients will receive $2,000.  Hutchinson described these payments as incentives for them to continue working while at risk and said $55 million would go to the payments.

  • Capital improvement payments to certain hospitals, independent physicians, rural health clinics and behavioral health agencies for modifications such as drive-thru test sites and isolation areas. There will be $15M for hospitals and $16M for community providers.

  • Financial support for workforce safety and training for providers that must continue some face-to-face services. This funding is flexible.

  • The expansion of telemedicine and non-emergency transportation. There will be $19 million for this and the workforce training.

  • Payments to facilities that care for a disproportionate share of COVID-19 patients, such as the homeless population. There will be $5 million for homeless and $3 million for other facilities.

  • Uninsured patient coverage totaling $1.4 million.

Foster parents will also receive additional compensation, $500 per month, under this plan.

Hutchinson also said this plan “will be in effect during this public emergency, but it will have lasting benefit and accomplish lasting changes in our health care industry.”’

In addition, COVID-19 cases in the state rose to 335 and there was an additional death, bringing the total to three. 

Lonoke and Randolph counties saw their first cases.

There have been 41 hospitalizations, 13 people are on ventilators, and 13 have recovered.