State Capitol Week in Review – August 19, 2022

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas has begun the process of expanding Medicaid services so that more pregnant women can qualify for the government health care program.


The expanded services should be available to thousands of women by the beginning of next year, if the federal government approves the proposals submitted by the state Human Services Department.


About 5,000 women with high-risk pregnancies would become eligible for home visits by a nurse. The visits would be available after the baby is born, for up to 60 days.


About 450 visiting nurses now help expectant mothers enrolled in Medicaid. Last year they helped 1,913 Arkansas families.


Home visits reduce the risks of long-term health problems for the newborn baby and they improve the health of the mother. In high-risk pregnancies they lower the need for intensive care for newborns, which saves the state Medicaid program enormous sums of money.


Home visits can help new mothers cope with anxiety and mood disorders. They also offer advice about breast feeding and answer questions about lactation.


The state will also seek federal approval to expand the range of services that pregnant mothers can receive. That will help some mothers who now only qualify for Medicaid services directly related to their pregnancy.


The department is seeking federal approval to offer full Medicaid coverage to all pregnant women in the program. This would make about 2,000 women eligible for a full range of medical care, including care for behavioral health problems.


DHS officials also announced that they would request an increase in the department budget next year so it can increase payments to foster parents. Many foster families now receive $455 a month for food and shelter for children in foster care.


Many children are in provisional foster care with relatives, or a close friend of the family. Those placements are considered provisional for the time it takes to place them with a foster family. That period of time can be a month to six months.


Beginning in September, the department will pay $240 a month during the period in which the child is in provisional care. The governor expressed his hope that in the 2023 regular session the legislature would increase the amount of provisional payments.


There were 4,520 Arkansas children in foster care in June.


State officials are working to provide more resources for pregnant women because they expect an increase in the number of unplanned pregnancies in Arkansas. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe vs. Wade triggered a state law that immediately prohibited almost all abortions in Arkansas.


The state Health Department is implementing a service called the Pregnancy and Parenting Resource Call Line. People can call 1-855-ARK-MOMS to get information about the availability of resources in their area that benefit pregnant women.


That’s also 1-855-275-6667.


The call line will provide information about health care services, prenatal and post natal care, adoption and foster care, child care assistance, mental health care, how to apply for a job, how to get treatment for addictions, how to sign up for welfare and food stamps and how to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.