Prediction: Slowing of Medicaid spending will drive renewed push for repeal of soft drink tax | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Prediction: Slowing of Medicaid spending will drive renewed push for repeal of soft drink tax

Posted By on Sat, Jul 13, 2013 at 6:35 AM

JIM GUY TUCKER: Led soft drink tax for Medicaid support.
  • JIM GUY TUCKER: Led soft drink tax for Medicaid support.
Good news yesterday from the Arkansas Department of Human Services. The program ended the budget year June 30 with a $62 million cushion in the Medicaid trust fund thanks to the slowest growth of spending in the program in years. Medicaid spending has slowed nationally and, in Arkansas, most believe new methods of reimbursement related to episodes of care are contributing to the slowdown.

Overall in Arkansas, spending in the $4.6 billion program increaed by 1.5 percent from the year before, the smallest rate of growth in 31 years.

The trend meant the state didn't have to cut some services that, for a time, were on the chopping block.

That's all good. But it is sure to revive the old debate and invigorate the push by the soft drink industry to repeal the 20-year-old soft drink tax, which raises almost $50 million annually dedicated to Medicaid. It was a signature achievement of Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.

Get an advance look at the coming debate in Talk Business.

Here's Dennis Farmer, who leads the soft drink lobby, writing about the industry's desire for repeal.

And here's Jim Guy Tucker with good history and a defense of the tax, which has served the state well.

I am happy this Trust Fund is available to serve our poorest citizens who are in need, and I am grateful and proud that our citizens voted to provide for these health care needs. Hopefully, we have done so with a relatively light burden on those who savor their soft drinks and those good and legitimate businesses that profit from the sale of their product — and helped our poorest citizens in the process.

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