From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
In January of 2020 the federal government declared a public health emergency because of widespread concerns about the impact of Covid-19.
As a nation we have weathered the storm, and now public health officials are preparing for life after the pandemic.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services is getting ready for the emergency to be officially declared over.
When that day comes, the state’s Medicaid program can expect a sharp reduction in federal funding.
Traditionally, the state and federal governments have shared the costs of Medicaid, with the feds providing about 71 percent and the state providing the rest.
Different states match federal funding at different rates, depending on their per capita income.
During the Covid pandemic, the federal match rate was increased by 6.2 percent.
That is helping us pay for the additional people who enrolled in Medicaid because they lost their jobs, or had their hours reduced.
Since 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, the number of Arkansas residents on Medicaid has gone up by more than 22 percent.
As long as the public health emergency is still in effect, those people cannot be removed from the rolls.
About 500,000 people would have ordinarily gone off Medicaid because they’re working again, and their income now exceeds the eligibility threshold.
When the emergency is terminated, those people will be assessed again, to determine whether they will still be eligible for Medicaid.
The Arkansas Human Services Department is ahead of the game, compared to similar agencies in other states.
That’s because Act 780 of 2021 required the department to redetermine eligibility in a timely manner, after the pandemic is officially over.
Because of the new law, DHS officials have been in contact with Medicaid enrollees, gathering information that will determine if they can keep their eligibility.
It will be a laborious process, both for DHS staff and for individuals who rely on Medicaid for their health coverage.
However, it will be worth the effort, knowing that the federal Centers for Disease Control has officially announced the termination of the public health emergency.
It will mean that as a society we have come through the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 12,500 Arkansans died from the coronavirus, and more than 41,000 people were hospitalized. Let’s never forget the grief that those families suffered, and are still going through.
Let’s continue to take the necessary steps so we can manage this tragic disease. About 1.6 million Arkansans are fully vaccinated.
That’s a great start.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.