Little Rock Health Care Safety Net Stretched by Economic Downturn

Although a large proportion of Little Rock’s population is low-income, the health care safety net’s capabilities are strained, especially for adults. The economic downturn has been milder in Little Rock than many other areas, but increased unemployment and an almost 15 percent uninsurance rate have strained the area’s fragmented safety net. The community has just a single federally qualified health center (FQHC), a handful of free clinics and a relatively small number of primary care physicians. Children fare better than adults, however, as ARKidsFirst, Arkansas’ Child Health Insurance Program for low-income children, has less-stringent-eligibility requirements relative to the Medicaid program for adults. Against this backdrop of limited access to care for low-income and uninsured adults, the Little Rock health care market, nonetheless, has far more hospital beds and specialty physicians per capita than many other metropolitan areas, reflecting in part the area’s role as a referral center for the rest of the state.