LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson pledged Wednesday to use savings from his managed-care plan for Medicaid, if approved by the Legislature, to cut the state’s waiting list for services for the developmentally disabled in half within three years.

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson pledged Wednesday to use savings from his managed-care plan for Medicaid, if approved by the Legislature, to cut the state’s waiting list for services for the developmentally disabled in half within three years.


In a speech to the Governor’s Medicaid Advisory Council, Hutchinson said nearly 3,000 developmentally disabled Arkansans are on the waiting list for home- and community-based services, and 125 of them have been on the list since 2007.


"That’s a long time," he said. "We have an obligation as a state to deal with that. Some people have even mentioned that we could be sued because we’re not properly dealing with the waiting list."


The issue has not been addressed sooner because "there’s a huge cost to it," Hutchinson said, but he told the panel he has a plan to generate enough funds to cut the waiting list in half — a plan he said would be implemented with the involvement of the developmentally disabled community.


He said the plan depends on the passage of his proposed Arkansas Medicaid Reform Act, which calls for the state to let a private company or companies provide some Medicaid services.


Hutchinson said that if lawmakers approve the measure, a premium tax would be imposed on managed-care plans, generating about $50 million a year. He said he would apply at least half of that revenue to a trust fund that would be used to reduce the developmentally disabled waiting list, with the federal government providing two-thirds of the cost in matching funds.


"We’re going to have tiered levels of service, control of costs, more flexibility as we manage that," he said.


Hutchinson has said he will call a special session starting April 6 to ask the Legislature to consider the managed-care proposal and a separate proposal to continue and modify the state’s Medicaid expansion program, under the name Arkansas Works.


Some legislators have been working on an alternative proposal to the managed-care proposal, but Hutchinson has said that proposal will not be included in his call for a special session. Some legislators have criticized that decision, including Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis, who said Tuesday that "there’s a good chance managed care won’t pass and then we’ll be left with nothing."


Hutchinson said Wednesday that "I put two bills on the call because they’re perfectly matched together."


"That’s why we have a special session," he said. "The governor sets forth the agenda. I can’t set forth the agenda in a general session. I can’t set it forth completely in a budget session. But in a special session I’m calling it for an agenda, and this is the agenda that is really an urgent need of our state to address."