State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

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LITTLE
ROCK – The Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission distributes funds to seven
public health programs. According to an independent evaluation, they’re meeting
an overwhelming majority of their goals.

The
independent evaluation was by a team from the University of Central Arkansas at
Conway. In its most recent report to the Senate Committee on Public Health,
Welfare and Labor, the UCA team found that the seven programs had met, or were
making progress toward meeting, 78 of 80 “indicator” goals.

One
of the unmet goals was in the Medicaid Expansion Program paid for with tobacco
settlement money. According to the independent evaluators, in late 2018 there
was a slight decrease in the number of people getting coverage for hospital
care under the program.

The
other unmet goal was in the UAMS East Regional Campus program for assistance
with paying for prescription medicines.

It
was unmet because the program was discontinued for lack of need for its
services, due to the availability of prescription drug coverage under the
national Affordable Care Act. For that reason, future evaluation teams will no
longer measure the UAMS programs effectiveness in reaching the “indicator”
goal.

In
2000 the legislature created the Tobacco Settlement Commission and the programs
it administers. Arkansas and other states had settled a lawsuit against major
tobacco companies, in which the states sought compensation for the costs of
treating illnesses caused by smoking.

Unlike
those of many other states, Arkansas legislators decided to use all of the
state’s share of the tobacco settlement to pay for health-related programs, as
well as anti-smoking efforts.

For
example, the UAMS East Campus and the Minority Health Initiative provided
health screenings for 8,543 Arkansans at health fairs and wellness events where
they work.

A
portion of the tobacco settlement revenue pays for Medicaid coverage for people
who otherwise may not have qualified. Last year 259 people with development
disabilities were helped with Medicaid funding paid by the settlement. In all,
7,083 people received Medicaid services paid for by the tobacco settlement.
They include pregnant women, senior citizens and eligible adults.

Settlement
revenues pay for research at the UAMS College of Public Health, such as how to
prevent and treat birth defects. Revenues also pay for 206 research projects at
the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, which combines teams from Arkansas State
University, the University of Arkansas, the U. of A. Division of Agriculture
and UAMS.

Settlement
revenue pays for geriatric care provided by the UAMS Center on Aging, which is
working to improve the quality of life and expand the availability of health
care of the growing number of seniors in rural areas. The program helps elderly
people plan healthier diets, understand the effects of dementia, control their
blood pressure and manage diabetes, among other services.

The
settlement revenue also funds a Prevention and Cessation Program, with the goal
of reducing the number of Arkansans who smoke or use tobacco. To measure its
successfulness, the program set the baseline as 2013, when 32 percent of young
people smoked or used tobacco products. According to its surveys, that rate has
decreased to 26.2% in 2015 and to 23.1 percent in 2017.

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Tammy Moore Teague

Tammy Moore Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; Editor - Resident Press. 20+ years experience in the news.

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