HJAR Jul/Aug 2023

40 JUL / AUG 2023 I  HEALTHCARE JOURNAL OF ARKANSAS POLICY COLUMN POLICY MEASURES on education, criminal justice, and taxes dominated the 2023 regular ses- sion of the 94th Arkansas General Assem- bly, but legislators and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders also enacted dozens of less high- profile laws aimed at improving the health of Arkansans. Some of those laws specified when they would go into effect, but for the rest, the default effective date is 90 days af- ter the end of the session, or July 31. Space does not permit a discussion here of every health-related law going into effect at the end of July, but some notable mea- sures are highlighted below. Although all of the laws will be in effect July 31, some will require administrative procedures before they can be implemented. MATERNAL AND INFANT HEALTH This is an urgent issue forArkansas, which has the nation’s highest maternal mortal- ity rate, 1 highest teen birth rate, 2 and third- highest infant mortality rate. 3 New laws that seek to make Arkansas a less risky place to have a baby includeAct 490, which requires that newborns be screened for certain health conditions as recommended by the U.S. De- partment of Health and Human Services; Act 128, which requires public schools to excuse absences due to pregnancy; Act 581, which Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal program, but states are allowed to modify the eligibility requirements. Arkansas has set the income limit at the lowest level allowed by the federal government; in addition, it im- poses an asset limit of $2,250 per household. Nearly 40 states have eliminated SNAP asset limits, recognizing that they create a disin- centive for people to accumulate savings and become upwardly mobile, as well as a cliff that exposes vulnerable people to a sud- den halt in benefits if they exceed the limit. 6 Sen. Jonathan Dismang filed a bill that initially proposed to raise Arkansas’ SNAP asset limit to $12,500 per household, but the bill was amended during the legislative process. As enacted, Act 675 directs the Ar- kansas Department of Human Services to request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, allowing it to set a one-year temporary asset limit of $5,500 for a spe- cific household that exceeds the current asset limit. A household could receive the temporary asset limit no more than once every five years. Another new law that seeks to reduce food insecurity in our state isAct 656, which requires that public school students from low-income households who qualify for reduced-price school meals not be charged BILLS OF HEALTH: requires Medicaid to cover long-acting and reversible contraception for new mothers; Act 562, which requires Medicaid to cover depression screening for pregnant wom- en; andAct 316, which requires Medicaid to cover depression screening for new moth- ers within the first six weeks of giving birth. Act 316 will also require private insurers to cover depression screening for new moth- ers of babies born on or after Jan. 1, 2024. A law that has already taken effect, Act 770, extends public employees’ catastroph- ic leave for maternity purposes from four weeks to 12 weeks. A bill to improve maternal and infant health that unfortunately failed to win pas- sage was House Bill 1010 by Rep. Aaron Pilk- ington, which would have provided postpar- tumMedicaid coverage for newmothers for one year after they give birth, instead of the current 60 days. This extension of coverage is permitted under the federal budget bill approved late last year, andArkansas is one of only a handful of states that have chosen not to adopt it. 4 FOOD SECURITY This is another key issue for the state, which has the second-highest food inse- curity rate in the nation. 5 The Supplemental Many New Health-Related Laws Take Effect in Arkansas July 31