If you weren’t able to attend the annual Medicaid Educational Conference last week, you missed some great speakers who provided lots of helpful information for those who serve Medicaid patients.

Here are a few of the highlights.

  • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson keynoted the conference with a discussion of future changes that he is anticipating in the private option program, Arkansas’ unique Medicaid expansion. Gov. Hutchinson emphasized that good health is a cornerstone of his administration’s efforts to enhance the state’s economic development and job creation. He said he wanted the private option in the future to include work incentives such as job training, managed care to reduce costs for the highest-cost Medicaid services and third-party administrators to also cut costs. He said Medicaid savings are crucial because the federal government will start requiring the states to pay up to 10 percent of Medicaid expansion costs in a few years. The governor emphasized that Medicaid beneficiaries must be encouraged to take responsibility for their own health care. He said additional vision and dental coverage may be made available to encourage beneficiaries to meet the Healthy Active Arkansas benchmarks for improving their health.
  • William Golden, MD, and head of the Arkansas Medicaid program, detailed how the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative (APII) has helped the state transition from a health care payment system based on the volume of services to a system that rewards quality outcomes and lower costs. He said Arkansas is “way ahead of the national curve” in implementing alternative payment mechanisms. Patient-Centered Medical Homes (PCMH), electronic health records (EHR) and reimbursements tied to episodes of care (EOCs) are three key alternative payment mechanisms that Dr. Golden said are both improving quality and decreasing Medicaid costs. He noted that nearly $800,000 has been returned to practices that met the quality and cost benchmarks. He said Medicaid hopes eventually to have 75 percent of its patients in PCMHs.
  • Joe Thompson, MD, director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), discussed ways that ACHI is working throughout the state to improve population health. Efforts to enhance and increase the number of medical professionals include additional residency slots for medical students, expansion of physician’s assistant and advanced practice nurse training opportunities, two new doctors of osteopathy schools and health information management training programs at vocational-technical schools. He said Arkansas leads the nation in reducing the number of citizens without health insurance. This has, in turn, decreased the cost of uncompensated care by 56 percent, decreased emergency room visits by 36 percent and prevented the closure of any rural hospitals, contrary to what’s happening nationally to rural hospitals. Dr. Thompson said Arkansas law now requires that all health insurance claims be filed on the state’s all-payer-claims database. Having a comprehensive database provides numerous opportunities for research, health screenings and cost control and quality improvement.
  • Lindy Bollen, Jr., DDS, said research over the past decade has closely linked oral health to overall health. Dr. Bollen, director of the Health Department’s Office of Oral Health, emphasized the importance of preventive dental care. He explained why a child’s first visit to the dentist should be between six months and a year, contrary to previous practice guidelines. He said 40 percent of Arkansas preschoolers have tooth decay that could have been prevented with regular dental checkups and less consumption of sugary foods and beverages. Dr. Bollen said dental decay is the most prevalent infectious disease and is closely linked to heart disease.
  • Karan Burnett spoke about a small Medicaid waiver project that has produced miraculous changes in the lives of autistic children and their families. The program involves parents in 20 to 30 hours a week of evidence-based interventions in the home. Working with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children before the age of 5, parents are taught specific ways to implement behavioral changes that dramatically change the way the child performs the normal activities of daily living such as eating, toileting, dressing and relating to family members.
  • Chad Rodgers, MD, and chief medical officer for AFMC, discussed the importance of alcohol screening in primary care practices. Dr. Rodgers said a third of the U.S. population were at risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD), yet only one in six had ever discussed it with their doctor. Rodgers explained the various screening tools available to clinicians and discussed the dangerous health implications of “binge” drinking.

You may download any of the nine presentations here.

Sponsored by the AFMC and Arkansas Department of Human Services, more than 400 providers and their staffs attended the Little Rock conference. Stay tuned to AFMC’s blog for the date and location of the 2016 conference.