Arkansas doctors explain importance of expanding insurance coverage 

Dr. Sara Ghori Tariq, an internist and medical director of the Center for Clinical Skills at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (and named by her peers as a "Best Doctor"), described her encounter with an uninsured patient she saw as a volunteer physician at Harmony Health Clinic.

"I saw a gentleman a couple of weeks ago with a large abscess in his leg, a pocket of infection. ... It was extremely painful," Tariq said. He was employed as a dishwasher and couldn't afford insurance, so he'd waited to seek medical attention. His diabetes was a contributing factor, but he couldn't "consistently afford" insulin. He needed treatment, blood sugar tests and antibiotics. Had his blood sugar been too high, Tariq would have needed to send him to the UAMS Emergency Room for care.

Patients who don't have insurance "tend to be absolutely more sick, more challenging" to treat, Tariq said. They put off doctor visits to avoid the cost of paying out of pocket. The man with chest pain, the woman with a lump in her breast — had they come to the doctor at the first sign of trouble, they would have been better outcomes, both physically and financially. The effect of poverty, low health literacy, the lack of social support and homelessness on patient health is one of the things Tariq addresses in her clinical skills classes at UAMS.

If Tariq's patient (and others) had access to Medicaid, he wouldn't have had trouble paying for the medicine he needed, thus avoiding the complications from his disease as well as lost wages. UAMS could have been spared the cost of treating him in its ER. Taxpayers would have paid less, with contributions to Medicaid on the front end alleviating the need for emergency care.

Doctors at UAMS treat all comers, insured and uninsured; 12 percent of its admitted patients — 3,120 last year — are among the latter. Outpatient visits by the uninsured numbered 61,426 in 2012. Charity and unreimbursed care rose from $175 million in 2011 to $202 million in 2012. Those numbers would be less if Arkansas, which has the most stringent rules for Medicaid eligibility in the country, would agree to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid — now limited largely to children, the disabled and impoverished pregnant women — to a wider group of Arkansans too poor to pay for private insurance. Two plans are under consideration: extending Medicaid to all Arkansans at or under 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($11,490 for individuals, $23,550 for a family of four) or a deal Gov. Beebe and the federal Health and Human Services Department worked out to extend the private insurance exchange option to that same group of people at no cost, with premiums picked up by Medicaid. (The Affordable Care Act allows tax credits to certain persons earning between 138 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level tax credits to pay for private premiums on the insurance exchange. Arkansas is the only state so far to be offered exchange coverage for persons whose income puts them under 138 percent.)

Tariq said she hoped the legislature would act to expand access to health care quickly.


It's been noted that putting off acting on Medicaid expansion by a year — something the legislature is, as of this writing, considering — would mean the state would sacrifice one of the three years in which expansion will cost it no money (2014, 2015 and 2016 are the years the federal government would pick up the tab; after that, states will contribute 10 percent). But the monetary loss is not the main concern of Dr. Joe Thompson, director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.


Speaking of...


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Rodney Block plays Jazzlights in the Park

    Also, The Temptations at Oaklawn, the Greek Food Festival, the Steve Miller Band at the Walmart AMP, the Ed Cromwell Legacy at the Arkansas Arts Center and Books in Bloom in Eureka Springs.
    • May 14, 2015
  • Governor talks of realities of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion: Update

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson is speaking this morning to his task force created to come up with some political cover for keeping the benefits of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion or otherwise pull a health care ranbit out of a hat that can cover a quarter-million Arkansans at no cost to the state.
    • Apr 30, 2015
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Womack gets plucked by 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver'

    HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which premiered last April, has consistently shown itself to be a Daily Show-level contender for the humor-news crown. Up for discussion on the show last night: the myriad ways major poultry producers exploit chicken farmers. Also featured in the video: Arkansas Republican Rep. Steve Womack, who gets plucked and roasted for placing a rider on the agriculture appropriations bill that forbids the USDA from enforcing already-written protections for the nation's poultry farmers.
  • Magazine obtains police report over Josh Duggar sexual molestation investigation; he admits past 'mistakes,' resigns Family Council job

    In Touch magazine reports that it has obtained a Springdale police report containing allegations of sexual misconduct against an unnamed teen that it says it has confirmed was Josh Duggar, a minor at the time and now a prominent lobbyist for the Family Research Council and a leading voice for legal discrimination against gay people.
  • State budget administrator Brandon Sharp fired; no reason given

    KATV reports that Brandon Sharp was fired Monday afternoon after four years as state budget administrator, a $101,000-a-year job in the Department of Finance and Administration.
  • KATV: Bill Walker's state agency approves grants to sister UPDATE

    KATV has dug up on questionable public dealings by a familiar figure — former state Sen. Bill Walker, who headed the state Career Education Department during the administration of Gov. Mike Beebe.
  • What's not to love about the Bentonville Film Festival? Walmart.

    The Bentonville Film Festival, launched this year by actress Geena Davis and held earlier this month from May 5-9, earned a number of largely positive notices from major outlets like the Huffington Post ("At the Bentonville Film Festival, Women Are Playing in the Major Leagues"), the L.A. Times ("Bentonville Film Festival pushes diversity message from year one") and the New York Times ("Bentonville, Ark., Hosts a Film Festival Without a Movie Theater"), most of them centering on its unique and vital agenda — promoting diversity and gender equality in filmmaking — and its celebrity cache (e.g. an acting workshop taught by Robert De Niro, a softball game led by Rosie O'Donnell, etc.).

Latest in Cover Stories

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Viewed

  • Riverfest 2015 preview

    The Pretty Reckless, Robert Earl Keen, Jake Moore, Girl Talk and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony among the headliners.
  • A transgender Navy sailor comes out

    Navy Reservist Rae Nelson is among the estimated 15,000 transgendered active duty servicemen and women
  • Happy birthday, Head Start

    Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood in the White House Rose Garden to announce the creation of Head Start, a federal program that would ensure at-risk children across the nation received access to a quality early childhood education.
  • Riverfest 2015 schedule

    From Kris Allen to Girl Talk.
  • Full stop

    A few fender benders in the distant past notwithstanding, The Observer (knock on the fake plastic wood of this desk) considers himself to be a fairly good driver.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Full stop

    • Sure glad it turned out the way it did. What would we do without The…

    • on May 21, 2015
  • Re: Defining marriage

    • These same sex couples most certainly should not engage in any kind of same sex…

    • on May 19, 2015
  • Re: Ask the Times: Ants!

    • Ants are repelled by MINT- they absolutely hate it, and will go the other way…

    • on May 19, 2015

© 2015 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation