Healthcare will likely be the hallmark of the 87th General Assembly. The legislature passed the most comprehensive healthcare legislation that has been passed in Arkansas in generations. Funded by a tax increase on tobacco products, the 23 item healthcare package includes establishing a statewide trauma network. Arkansas is one of only three states without a trauma network, and the only state without a Level 1 trauma hospital. Experts estimate that this network will save approximately 200 lives each year, as well as prevent permanent injury and lessen the long-term effect of such injuries in hundreds of more Arkansans. Having a trauma system will ensure that injury victims get to the right hospital with the right staff on duty, not just on call, during the precious hours immediately after a traumatic injury.
This healthcare package includes expanding the ARKids First health insurance program to another 8,000 children in families of low and middle incomes. It is estimated that some 70,000 children in Arkansas do not have health insurance. Additionally, home health care programs will be expanded, providing an alternative to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. Community health centers will receive state funding for the first time ever to help their mission of providing care to some 500,000 Arkansans without health insurance. More adults will be eligible for free or reduced price dental care. School nurses will get additional resources. Families with children who have been diagnosed with autism will have more options for treatment. Flu shots will be provided free of charge to anyone who wants one, and extra money is going to programs to prevent and treat those who've suffered strokes or have breast, cervical, ovarian, prostate, colorectal and skin cancer. These are just a few of the health benefits covered by this legislation.