Arkansas Legislators Concerned About Privatizing Home Health Care

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Due to financial constraints for the state, the Department of Health in Arkansas has moved forward with a proposal to sell their in home care services to private agencies. According to representative for the Department of Health, the private sector can provide the services seniors and disabled adults need for less than what the state is currently paying, for state employees and contract workers.

This move has some legislators worried that some services may no longer be available for those who need it, especially elderly and disabled who reside in rural areas of the state.

The Department of Health sent out notice to more than 500 state employees and 1,800 contract workers who have some involvement in the in home care aspect of the state to inform them that this sale would occur sometime in the summer of 2016. Essentially, according to Department of Health Director Nathanial Smith, the program that’s currently in place is no longer sustainable.

Recently, the deadline passed for home care agencies to submit a formal proposal for the purchase of these service contracts. The Department is now reviewing those proposals.

The current in home care program for the state began in 1981 and provides hospice, home health care, personal care, and other services required by those in need. It serves about 9,100 individuals across the state.

Not all are happy with this decision, like Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, who states that the state program is the only one in certain areas that provides these types of services and is concerned that those who rely on this level of care might not receive it when the entire program is privatized.

According to the Arkansas Online article, Legislators fret over in-home health care going private, written by Michael R. Wickline:

“Smith told lawmakers there are more than 100 in-home health care providers in the state, and he made the decision to sell the program after reviewing several years of information.

Some of the staff told him that the department’s in-home services program was having trouble competing with private providers, and some of the private providers questioned the state competing with them, he said.

“It made more sense to make this transition at a time when we still have something left to transfer and could negotiate the very best terms, not just for the people we serve, but also for our staff,” he said.”

Ultimately, how much the state saves through this measure will depend on the ultimate sale price, according to Smith and there appear to be many questions lingering for the Department of Health, the state, and those who rely on this level of care and support at home.

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