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The Main Street Food Truck Festival is coming up Oct. 4, and as an appetizer, arfoodjobs.com presents "Close Quarters: What I've Learned from Operating a Food Truck" at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, at Natchez Restaurant downtown.
In Hot Springs, one pizzeria is taking fresh flavors to the next level.
The Veg and Solfood Catering are serving up vegan cuisine with mainstream appeal.
The Republican Party's devotion to principle was on display last week. After months of opposition to a proposed initiated act to raise the Arkansas minimum wage, Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson flip-flopped to say he'd vote for the measure. /more/
If you have followed the Arkansas election ads you know that each party faces a single challenge. Republicans must overcome a philosophy problem, Democrats an Obama problem. /more/
Arkansas today submitted proposed amendments to the private option for federal approval. In order to pursue the private option — the state's unique version of Medicaid expansion which uses Medicaid funds to purchased private health insurance for low-income Arkansans — the state first had to secure approval for what's known as an 1115 waiver, a waiver of federal Medicaid rules allowing the state to experiment with a new approach. For the second year of the program, 2015, Arkansas is requesting three changes:
1) Health Independence Accounts — private option beneficiaries will make monthly contributions to these accounts in order to waive cost sharing payments (see here for more details on how the HIAs — which are not Health Savings Accounts, despite the tendency of many media accounts to describe them as "HSA-like" — will operate). I'll have more on HIAs in a forthcoming post.
2) Cost-sharing for private option beneficiaries between 50-99 percent of the federal poverty line. In Year One, the private option had no cost sharing below the poverty line, only for beneficiaries between 100-138 percent of FPL. Next year, the state is requesting to amend the waiver so that cost-sharing is allowed for beneficiaries between 50-138 percent of FPL. The cost-sharing in question is only the amount allowable under Medicaid law and will be tied to the Health Independence Accounts. More details here.
3) Limits to non-emergency medical transportation (see here for more on the NEMT benefit). Unlike Iowa, which got a one-year waiver allowing the state to stop offering the NEMT benefit to certain beneficiaries altogether, Arkansas is asking that the NEMT benefit be limited to eight trip legs per year for private option beneficiaries (so that would be four visits to the hospital, say, as there and back counts as two trip legs). People deemed medically frail and routed to the traditional Medicaid program will have no trip limits; this only applies to private option beneficiaries in private plans. If beneficiaries have a legitimate need, they can request additional transportation beyond the trip limit "through an extension of benefits process" with the Medicaid program. Hopefully this process will avoid a scenario in which a beneficiary in need is unable to get to a medical provider. Republicans in favor of limiting NEMT argue that the unlimited benefit leads to waste, fraud and abuse from the transportation providers; if so, perhaps the new process in place will curtail over-utilization.
These changes, along with the "Bell amendment" banning state-appropriated funding on outreach for the Affordable Care Act, are requirements for continuation of the private option because of special-language amendments added to the private option legislation during the 2014 fiscal session. Federal approval (a must for continuation of the private option) is thought to be likely. The feds have 90 days to respond.
Here are the proposed terms and conditions for the waiver, as amended.
See here for the the state's cover letter to the feds and see here for public comments and responses.
The open line and video roundup are here. Also:
* HOSPITALIZED: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel was treated at UAMS today for what was described as a reaction to a new blood pressure medication. He said in a statement he'd be back at work tomorrow. A spokesman termed the event "minor." Aaron Sadler said he was admitted for observation and tests and was busily e-mailing and texting.
* DEMONSTRATING: Several hundred people, many in wheelchairs, joined in demonstrations in Little Rock today — a parade, a visit to Gov. Mike Beebe and a visit to state offices — in favor of state adoption of the Community First Choice Option, an expansion of services at the home and community level for the disabled. Hundreds of people are on the waiting list for the program now, which is capped as to size. The Affordable Care Act provides for expansion but conservative legislators have expressed opposition to more spending, even on the disabled. Gov. Beebe today endorseed the CFCO, which is being pushed by the Human Services Department. More here on the group's fight for help to be integrated into the community. The state, demonstrators say, is will to pay for institutionalization, but not as willing to help people live in communities.
UPDATE: National ADAPT, a group of grassroots disability rights activists, which is sponsoring the demonstration here, finally prompted arrests this afternoon at the Victory Building. They had been blocking the doors of the Arkansas Health Care Association, the nursing home lobby, seen as an opponent to community versus institutional care. The ADAPT group cheered the news on its Facebook page. A police spokesman said the charge will be criminal trespass, but the number of arrests wasn't immediately known because the arrests were ongoing. It will be a significant number. The police started with those not in wheelchairs, but have begun escorting out a number in chairs. They were released after being given citations.
UPDATE II: Police said 75 to 100 demonstrators were inside the Victory Building and when those at a meeting asked that they leave, 36 refused. They were arrested, cited after transport by bus and then release. No one was hurt.
A conservative Christian outfit that aims to promote religion in public life through legal action is demanding — supposedly in the name of an anonymous football player — that Arkansas State University restore a cross to players' football helmets as part of a memorial tribute.
As the curators walked the press corps through the 19,000 square-feet devoted to the exhibition yesterday morning, my sense was that that no one needs to have taken a single art history class to “like” every piece in it—everything is instantly gettable. Even the nod to Donald Judd made out of box fans and straw hats by Detroit’s Hamilton Poe doesn’t need the Judd reference to charm what I imagine will be the thousands of school children and Branson-bound travelers who will tour the show.
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