The Medicaid program in Arkansas had its slowest growth in the past twenty years. This helps the budget outlook for state government. During the fiscal year that ended July 1, the Medicaid program spent 1.5% more that the previous year, which is about $68 million. The program ended the year with $62 million in its trust fund. At the beginning of the year the officials had expected the fund to be depleted to pay for rising costs. The director mentioned that Arkansas is beginning to see the results of a major effort begun in 2012 called the Payment Improvement Initiative. This changed how Medicaid reimburses physicians and hospitals for acute care and treatment of chronic conditions. Payment will not be based as much on the volume of services but more on episodes. For example, Medicaid will pay a certain amount for treatment of a person with upper respiratory illness. The amount will be divided among physicians, therapists, clinics etc. There will be financial incentives for physicians who hold down the cost of treating Medicaid patients to amounts that are below average. The DHS is the largest single state agency, with about 7,500 employees. Besides, administering Medicaid, DHS provides other services. It operates foster care program, which places about 4,000 children in foster homes. It regulates 229 nursing homes, and pays for the care of about 75% of all nursing home residents in Arkansas. About 1,000 people with developmental disabilities were cared for at human development centers run by DHS.They also operate juvenile detention centers in which almost 500 adolescents a year are placed, most are boys between 15-17.

Arkansas Attorney General McDaniel joined 22 other states in a filing to the US Supreme Court to strike down the federal ban on certain firearm sales to adults under the age of 21. A federal law prohibits the sale of firearms other than shotguns or rifles to adults between 18-20. These are the same people who defend our country is part of the argument. If you would like to contact me, please email me at bruce.holland@senate.ar.gov or call my office at 650-1884 or write me at P.O Box 1876. Greenwood AR, 72936 Have a great week.