"President Barack Obama's administration is dialing up the pressure on four states that have resisted expanding Medicaid coverage for their low-income residents under the federal health care overhaul."
"A House committee on Tuesday rejected a bill to offer an earned-income tax credit to low-income Arkansans."
"A House committee on Tuesday rejected a bill to offer an earned-income tax credit to low-income Arkansans.
House Bill 1344 by Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, failed in the House Revenue and Tax Committee in a voice vote. Under the bill, titled The Working Families Opportunity Act, about 279,000 Arkansas who qualify for a federal earned-income tax credit also would qualify for a state earned-income tax credit."
"More than $100 million in individual income tax cuts has been handed down by the Arkansas Legislature this year but the lowest paid Arkansans are not among the beneficiaries. However those taking home pay that places them in the bottom 40 percent could find some relief under a plan up for consideration Tuesday."
“Two steps forward, one step back — that’s what we thought when we saw the results of the annual Kids Count Data Book that rank Arkansas as the 41st state in child well-being.”
“Nearly three out of 10 kids are living in poverty in Arkansas, but the number of children without health insurance has gone down, according to a national study released Tuesday that shows how children fare in each state.”
“Arkansas’ minimum wage of $6.25 an hour, which applies to all employers with four or more employees, is one of only four state minimums that remain below the federal wage of $7.25 hourly. However, employers with annual revenue above $500,000 must pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.”
“I'd said that Hutchinson opposes raising the state's minimum wage. A campaign aide said Hutchinson opposes only the proposed initiated act favored by Mike Ross to take the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour in three years.”
“The private option allows eligible recipients - adults with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level - to sign up for a private plan on the state's health insurance exchange and to have their premiums paid by Medicaid. Pregnant women are normally not eligible for the private option because they qualify under an older, fee-service program that covers expenses related to pregnancy and childbirth for women with incomes of up to 200 percent of the poverty level.”
“The Medicaid expansion extended eligibility to adults with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level: $16,105 for an individual, for instance, or $32,913 for a family of four. According to numbers released by the state Department of Human Services, more than 152,000 Arkansans were enrolled in the Medicaid-funded plans as of May 31. Those who don't qualify for Medicaid may be eligible for federal tax credits to help them buy coverage. The tax credits are available to those with incomes of less than 400 percent of the poverty level: for example, $45,960 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four.”
“Enrollees in the private option do not pay premiums now, and those earning less than the poverty level are not required to contribute any money toward the cost of their medical care. Enrollees with incomes of 100 percent to 138 percent of the poverty level are charged copayments - $8 for a doctor's visit or $10 for a visit to a specialist's office, for instance.”
"Arkansas accepted the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act. Texas did not. That makes Texarkana perhaps the starkest example of how President Obama’s health care law is altering the economic geography of the country. The poor living in the Arkansas half of town won access to a government benefit worth thousands of dollars annually, yet nothing changed for those on the Texas side of the state line.”
“As of Monday, Arkansas Insurance Department officials were still awaiting word from a federal agency on what steps will be taken to prevent a gap in coverage for nearly 4,800 Arkansans whose Medicaid coverage ended Sunday.”
“About 4,800 people who were mistakenly enrolled in Arkansas' expanded Medicaid program before their eligibility had been verified have been notified that their coverage will end Saturday, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Thursday.”
“Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mike Ross on Friday said he supports a proposal to gradually raise the Arkansas minimum wage to $8.50 an hour by 2017. The state minimum now is $6.25 per hour, making it one of just four states with a minimum wage lower than the federal level of $7.25 per hour.”
“With Monday’s enrollment deadline for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace looming, only 33,569 Arkansans have enrolled, a number well below initial projections, state officials said Thursday. But officials said enrollment is right on track for the private option — which has no enrollment deadline — with just under 150,000 Arkansans having applied and been found eligible for the program and about 106,000 having completed enrollment.”
“The report listed reducing ‘food insecurity’ as a priority, noting that a study by Feeding America, a national network of food banks, found that 28 percent of Arkansas children in 2011 lived in households that are considered food insecure, meaning household members reported that a lack of money limited what they ate.”
“Enrollees in the state’s private option have been slightly older than expected, resulting in the state paying higher than expected premiums, the state’s Medicaid director said Tuesday.”
“Then last fall, the former teacher’s aide got a letter from the state of Arkansas telling her that because she got food stamps, she qualified for Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, which is being expanded under the health-care law to cover those who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or up to $15,900 for an individual.”
“Arkansas' plan for expanding Medicaid by buying private insurance policies for the poor instead of adding them to the rolls was heralded as a model for convincing more Republican-leaning states to adopt a key part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.”
“Supporters of Arkansas' ‘private option’ Medicaid expansion are walking a fine line as they assess the future of the program before this year's legislative session. They don't want to understate the danger it faces of being defunded, but they don't want to declare it dead just yet.”
“More than half of the people enrolled in private, Medicaid-funded plans in Arkansas under the so-called private option are under age 40, and 77 percent are younger than 50, according to information released Wednesday by the state Department of Human Services.”
“Enrollment in Arkansas’ expanded Medicaid program rose to more than 68,000 as of Saturday, up from about 67,000 a week earlier, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Thursday.”
“Enrollment in private, Medicaid-funded health insurance plans has jumped by 2,171 since the beginning of December, bringing the total number of Arkansans signed up for the plans to 61,374, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Wednesday.”
“Thompson said the goal of providing optimum health-insurance coverage is what has led the state to assign more than 47,000 food stamp recipients to private health-insurance plans. The state assigned these food-stamp recipients to private health-insurance plans after they indicated they wanted coverage, but failed to choose plans through the state website within a 12-day period, state officials said. So far, the total enrollment in Medicaid-funded private plans is more than 57,000.”
“An additional 7,831 food stamp recipients who applied for coverage under Arkansas’ expanded Medicaid program were automatically assigned to private, Medicaid-funded plans last week, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Wednesday.”
“More than a quarter of the 250,000 Arkansas residents eligible under the state's expanded Medicaid program have been enrolled for coverage, according to the state Department of Human Services.”
“Notices went out Tuesday to more than 40,000 food stamp recipients informing them that they have been automatically assigned to a private health-insurance plan under the state’s expanded Medicaid program, the state Department of Human Services announced.”
“The state Department of Human Services plans to notify tens of thousands of food stamp recipients today that they have been assigned to private insurance plans as the state's Medicaid program expands to cover more people.”
“The pace of enrollment in Arkansas' expanded Medicaid program slowed last week, with just 450 applicants completing the process, compared with 3,625 the week before, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Tuesday.”
“More than 3,600 people enrolled in Arkansas’ expanded Medicaid program last week, bringing to 14,079 the number of newly eligible adults signed up for coverage that will start Jan. 1, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Tuesday.”
“The number of food stamp recipients who enrolled in the state’s expanded Medicaid program since Oct. 1 shows ‘that there is a need,’ a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Tuesday.”
“Construction of a $2.7 million homeless campus in Fort Smith is at least a year out as advocates seek an additional $589,000 to begin the first phase, which includes a low-demand shelter.”
“More than 340 people applied for health insurance through the Arkansas Medicaid program Tuesday and Wednesday, the first two days that applications were accepted under the expanded program, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Thursday.”
“The first day of enrollment on health-insurance exchanges across the country got off to a bumpy start Tuesday, as computer glitches prevented many people from accessing an online portal that was supposed to allow individuals to compare plans and sign up for coverage.”
“Arkansas became the first state on Friday to win federal approval to use Medicaid funding to purchase private insurance for thousands of low-income residents under the federal health care law, clearing the way for a model that several other states are eyeing.”
“Arkansas tops the nation in the percentage of families who frequently missed meals because of lack of money or access to food, according to 2012 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture released Wednesday, just before Congress is expected to debate the federal supplemental nutrition program for the second time this year.”
“An average of one out of every five households in Arkansas had difficulty putting food on the table between 2010 and 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s annual report on food insecurity.”
“Arkansas wants to use Medicaid expansion money under the federal health care law to enroll people in private plans on its health insurance exchange. Instead of enrolling low-income, uninsured people in Medicaid, Arkansas would buy them insurance plans on that state's health insurance exchange, APRN reported.”
“Gov. Mike Beebe says Arkansas’ climb from 42nd to 40th on the Kids Count ranking of states is a direct result of where the state invests its resources, and that may indeed be true. ‘We’ve emphasized spending in areas that can have the most direct impact for children, education and health care, and we’ve seen improvements as a result,’ Beebe said in an Arkansas News Bureau report in Monday’s edition.”
“With Medicaid spending growing at its slowest pace in 25 years, Arkansas Department of Human Services officials have scrapped plans to cut reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals, and they no longer expect the program's trust fund to be exhausted when the state's fiscal year ends June 30.”
“Arkansas ranked fourth in the country at enrolling eligible children in programs such as ARKids First and Medicaid in 2011, according to an annual report by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. This is despite the fact that 27 percent of Arkansas children live in poverty compared with 20 percent nationally, according to a study by Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.”
“Arkansas moved closer to approving a plan to expand private insurance coverage using federal dollars Wednesday under a model that other states are watching as an alternative to expanding Medicaid. Meanwhile, lawmakers scrambled to make last-minute changes needed to line up Republican support.”
“In addition to the low-income Arkansans who would gain health-insurance coverage through expansion of the state's Medicaid program, more than 280,000 others will be eligible for subsidies for private insurance beginning Jan. 1, according to a report released Tuesday by a consumer advocacy group.”
“The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas said Thursday it supports a proposal to provide private insurance coverage to low-income Arkansans.”
“A proposal to offer tax breaks for donating to a scholarship fund that would allow low-income Arkansas students to attend private schools failed before a state Senate panel Wednesday, after state education and finance officials raised concerns about the impact the move would have on the budget.”
“A cost analysis released on Monday shows that a state plan to move Medicaid-eligible low-income citizens into a ‘private option’ under upcoming federal healthcare exchanges would result in little additional federal costs.”
"Still, the possibility that states can go a third route, rather than accepting or rejecting the Medicaid expansion outright, has thrown an element of uncertainty into the politically charged atmosphere surrounding the 2010 health-care law, which will extend health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans next year."
“Researchers from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville estimated that 2,429 people were homeless in Benton and Washington counties as of Jan. 31, up 18 percent from a similar count of the homeless population in 2011.”
“The federal government has agreed to consider a request by Gov. Mike Beebe to allow Arkansans whose income is just above the poverty level to choose private insurance on the state's exchange instead of Medicaid if the state fully expands the $5 billion program by 250,000.”
“In December, Sebelius' agency said if states choose to participate in the expansion, they must do so for up to 138 percent of the poverty level, or income of about $15,415 for an individual. In Arkansas that means up to 250,000 people would get Medicaid coverage. Many state Republicans said Thursday, on and off the record, that the possibility of a partial expansion - perhaps to 100 percent of the poverty level, covering about 160,000 people - reinforces their wariness about making any deal on Medicaid before President Barack Obama's administration more clearly outlines the boundaries of the debate.”
“In 2008, in an attempt to cut down on the number of people panhandling on the streets of downtown Little Rock, officials with the Little Rock Downtown Partnership and the Southside Main Street Project placed 28 ‘Change for the Better’ donation boxes on well-traveled corners. Four years later, the return has been less than abundant, said Sharon Priest, executive director of the partnership.”
“Chancellor Dr. Dan Rahn told a statewide audience of health-care providers in a video conference call that they need to educate themselves on a complex set of issues that are all occurring simultaneously: the ‘short-term’ struggle over the estimated $138 million state Medicaid deficit, an "intermediate" effort by Medicaid and two of the state's largest private insurers to undertake a dramatic overhaul of medical payments, and the health-care industry's "long-term" goal to tackle rising costs by becoming more efficient.”
“Automatic federal spending cuts scheduled to take place in January would result in Arkansas losing $54.9 million in funding for a variety of programs, state officials said this week. Among the possible reductions if Washington doesn't avert the ‘fiscal cliff’ are financial aid for college students, heating assistance for poor Arkansans and child-care subsidies for lower-income families.”
“Johnson, who grew up in Fort Smith and now lives in Little Rock, is the executive director of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, created in 2003 to increase resources and ensure low-income Arkansans have fair access to the civil courts.”
“Enrollment at several of the larger area public school districts saw slight gains this year over last year, but they were accompanied by bigger gains in low-income students, according to Arkansas Department of Education and school district data.”
“An event Tuesday sponsored by Veterans Health Care Systems of the Ozarks, 7Hills, Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville and the United Way of Northwest Arkansas will give homeless veterans and others a shot at resources not always easily accessible. Services include medical, dental and vision exams; legal advice; bags of perishable food; veterans services; Social Security services; flu shots; and haircuts.”
“Low-income families need assistance early to ensure children enter school on par with their more affluent peers, said Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children in Little Rock. Programs that help include those that provide good prenatal care for mothers, promote a strong bond between parents and children and ensure that families have access to quality child-care programs. Children from low-income families also need quality programs after school and during the summer, he said.”
“Five low-income health clinics in Arkansas were awarded grants totaling nearly $11.2 million in May and June - part of $857 million in such Affordable Care Act awards nationwide that health officials say will help serve more patients, cut expensive emergency room visits and create health-care jobs.”
"Those still required to undergo annual TB testing are employees of hospitals and other medical facilities, prisons, homeless shelters and nursing homes. Inmates and people likely to stay in a homeless shelter for at least 14 days also have to be tested. Patil said foreign-born students who attend Arkansas universities also are tested."
"Almost all of them live in this working-class town in the northwest corner of the state, where Tyson Foods has its headquarters. They arrived here hoping to escape poverty and poor health: their nation ranks third in tuberculosis deaths per capita. Diabetes is rampant. Leprosy still lurks."
"The federal Medicaid expansion would extend eligibility to those with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty line, which would be $15,414 for an individual or $31,808 for a family of four, according to federal poverty rates calculated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services."
"For a homeless child, it's not uncommon to attend three or more schools in a single year. As a result, it's not uncommon for those children to face serious academic problems, making them more likely to be homeless adults."
"'The state has the highest rate of poverty, the highest rate of children living in single parent households, the lowest average life expectancy, and the highest rate of births among teenagers.' Other states listed among the 'least' peaceful states in the country were South Carolina (9th), Arkansas (8th), Texas (7th), Missouri (6th), Arizona (5th), Florida (4th), Nevada (3rd), Tennessee (2nd) and Louisiana (1st)."
"But it also serves to highlight complicated links between poverty, nutrition, obesity and overall well-being. Insecurity or hunger? 'Those public service announcements come back to haunt me,' said Mark Nord, the USDA sociologist in charge of food insecurity data."
"Sara Sanders of North Little Rock has taken her four children to the Little Rock Pediatric Clinic for nearly eight years - in exchange for benefits that go beyond just physical health. Through age 5, each well-child visit to the clinic comes with an added bonus - a new book."
"Terry Lawler, who works with children at the Hot Springs School District who are in transition between permanent residences, said the school district has 120 students in that category. The school doesn't like to use the word homeless because of the stigma it could place on a child, but many of the children are living with another family or in weekly-stay housing."
"In a meeting with Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola on Monday, officials with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to review their plan to establish a center for homeless veterans on Main Street but stopped short of promising to change course, the mayor said."
"The center participates in the Better Beginnings ratings, a state-run program, and has a rating of one star out of a possible three. There are only two child-care centers with a Better Beginnings rating in Franklin County, according to the state's Child Care and Early Childhood Education Division."
"The program is meant to provide low-income families with assistance such as wage supplements, child care, transportation, and education and job training through the state's Transitional Employment Assistance program, the state's welfare program, Workforce Department officials said."
"But moving online is not an option for the many rural families living in the poorest parts of the country, where Internet service and cell phone reception are spotty or nonexistent, and few have computers."
"Rural populations tend to be low-income, elderly and disabled, and many small-town residents receive their prescription medications by mail. They worry that if their post office were to close, they would have to drive to the closest town with a post office or pay a neighbor to make the trip."
"Using money from a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance, the state Department of Community Correction is paying the halfway houses $28 per inmate per day for up to 120 days, after which the inmates are expected to pay their own rents at the halfway houses or move out on their own."
"Higher percentages of Arkansans were unemployed, receiving food stamps or living in poverty last year than before the 2007 recession, but census numbers released today show those figures leveled off going into 2010."
"A list of states and the federal enclave compiled by the Con Agra Foods Foundation and reprinted recently in The New York Times reveals that in the District 32.3 percent, or 36,870 boys and girls, face food deprivation. The District is followed closely by Oregon with 29.2 percent, or 252,510 children, and Arizona and Arkansas with 28.8 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively."
"A national report recently ranked Arkansas 47th for child well-being and 49th for child poverty. Mississippi is the only state in the nation that has a higher child poverty rate than Arkansas."
"[Ford's] organization, D.C. Parents for School Choice, was started in 1998 as an information clearinghouse on charter schools and afterschool programs. It became a primary proponent of a taxpayer-funded school-voucher bill in Congress that beginning in 2004 enabled low-income parents to choose private schools."
"A new report shows that more than a quarter of Arkansas' children live in poverty."