Weekly Address – July 14, 2021

From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.


Arkansas legislators are constantly working to hold down costs of Medicaid, one of the single largest spending categories in state government.


The Department of Human Services operates the Medicaid program. It also administers welfare benefits and food stamps for low-income families.


One of the most challenging aspects of working in a county DHS office is determining eligibility when people who apply for welfare, food stamps or Medicaid.


The new automated process should dramatically improve the efficiency and the timeliness of the application process, while saving the state money.


Previously, an individual who lost their job might have to fill out as many as eight separate applications when they apply for benefits.


Soon, they will have to fill out only one.


All the state’s medical benefits have been combined. As of last week, a pilot program in five Arkansas counties was put in place. It will implement a single application process for all benefits, including SNAP, or food stamps, and TEA, or welfare.


The five counties in the pilot program represent 6 percent of the state’s population. By November, every county in eastern Arkansas is scheduled to be part of the single application process.


The new system should help DHS county offices tremendously, and it should also be a major improvement for recipients.


It will also hold down costs to taxpayers, because determining eligibility is one of the most difficult aspects of providing benefits.


Many people who qualify for food stamps and Medicaid are not permanently eligible. They qualify temporarily because they lost their jobs, or got a divorce. When they get back on their feet, they go off the rolls.


The new system should make the process more transparent, more accurate and more reliable.


This year Arkansas will spend about $1.37 billion in state revenue on Medicaid. However, that is just a fraction of the total cost of the health program.


Arkansas receives matching federal funds at a ratio of more than three to one. For example, last year the federal government provided $5.9 billion to the Arkansas Medicaid program.


Almost 900,000 Arkansas residents were enrolled for Medicaid services last year when the pandemic hit. By the end of the year the number of Medicaid enrollees had gone up to 964,000 people.


Thankfully, the Arkansas economy is in recovery and more people are going back to work, so those numbers are certain to go down.


From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.