From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Sometimes you have to look just beneath the surface to uncover the good news.
That was certainly the case at the Capitol this week.
Much of the media attention was focused on the upcoming elections, and I’ll admit that I was very interested in the candidate filings.
There are a number of contested races, and the results of the May primary will determine the political direction that Arkansas takes over the next two years.
Of course, the war in the Ukraine is on everyone’s mind, and the Senate passed a resolution urging the federal government to impose the strongest of economic sanctions against Russia.
With such high-profile issues on our agenda, it was understandable that so many people failed to notice when the Senate approved a budget for the state Medicaid program.
Medicaid is one of the single largest spending categories in state government. It pays for medical services for a million Arkansas residents.
Since 2010, passing the Medicaid budget has generated heated controversy. That’s because a faction of legislators steadfastly opposed the expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Medicaid is essentially a spending bill, which requires a 75 percent majority of the House and Senate.
The requirement for a supermajority is in the state Constitution. There have been years when it made passage of the Medicaid budget extremely difficult.
The good news this year is that we approved Medicaid funding with a minimum of fuss. Even better news is that $37.6 million is allocated to expand home care and community services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
More than 3,200 people waiting for those services, and the state has made a financial commitment to eliminate the waiting list. Passage of the Medicaid budget is a big step toward that goal.
The budget also funds nursing home care for about 75 percent of the residents in Arkansas long-term care facilities.
It also funds ARKids First, a health program for children in low-income families, whose parents work and therefore don’t qualify for traditional Medicaid.
The Medicaid bill appropriates $579 million for prescription drugs, and $7.5 billion for medical and hospital services.
Medicaid is the single largest provider of health coverage to Arkansas families, and that’s why legislative approval of Medicaid funding is such good news.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.