Tuesday, Arkansas's House of Representatives passed the Department of Human Services Division of Medical Services appropriation for the 2015 fiscal year, by a margin of 76-24. The reason this is big news is because, embedded with the funding for Medicaid and ARKids First, the state's "Private Option" funding made this the fiscal session's most controversial bill.
Today in Arkansas we mark Nuclear Remembrance Day, to raise awareness of the nuclear tests that the United States conducted in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and to honor our nations' shared history.
A new report published by Economic Policy Institute finds that all 50 states have experienced widening income inequality in recent decades. This follows a report we released last week that highlights the growing wealth disparity in Arkansas. The EPI report focuses on new data that shows the top one percent in Arkansas raked in nearly one-third of all the state's economic growth from 1979 to 2007.
The Private Option is helping Arkansans. But don't take it from us. Take it from Dr. Bill Wells, who has been helping low-income patients in and around Heber Springs for years. Dr. Wells practices at the Christian Health Center, where he says people come from about 55 or 60 different zip codes just to get some form of affordable care.
The Christian Health Center heals more than 3,500 poverty-stricken families in Cleburne, Stone, and surrounding counties. They serve the working poor who don't qualify for Medicaid or Medicare.
The gap between the rich and poor in Arkansas is growing. A new report by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) says increasing inequality in Arkansas is holding back economic growth, damaging the democratic process, and keeping many low-income and minority families stuck in poverty. But it's a problem that has solutions, the group says.
Anita Geiger is a mother, a student, and an employee from Conway. She hasn't had any health coverage in the past six years and she's made sacrifices to keep her daughter healthy.
"You look at your child's face and you want to do everything you can for them," Anita says. "So you usually give to a child before you take care of yourself. I'd say in the six years that I haven't had any kind of coverage at all, it's been really tough."
Believe it or not, lawmakers will be talking about issues other than the Private Option during the 2014 fiscal session which begins today. One of those issues is how to best spend funds aimed at helping poorer students perform better in school. NSLA funding (named after the National School Lunch Act and sometimes referred to as poverty funding) is supposed to help low-income students close the "achievement gap" that exists between them and their more affluent counterparts.