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Watson discusses interim meeting

By Staff, 02/6/18 1:05 PM


HOPE/PRESCOTT – State Rep. Danny Watson has been in Little Rock lately during what he calls the “off season” for the legislature.

The purpose for this interim session, he said, is to prepare for the 2019 regular session of the Arkansas General Assembly. One of the biggest issues legislators have been dealing with in this session is health care. Watson said it’s a major concern and the legislature wants to continue with the Arkansas Works program. What’s being done, he continued, is the committee is developing a game plan for the next session.

According to Watson, President Donald Trump reportedly likes Arkansas’ program and wants it to be a model state for the nation. The idea would be to expand Arkansas Works, Watson said, using federal money so people could buy private insurance.

Another issue being dealt with is getting pharmacies and pharmacists properly paid for their work. Watson said pharmacies are losing money on prescriptions because they’re getting paid less than the medications are worth in some instances. The lawmakers, he said, heard testimony from pharmacists telling how they’re about to go broke because they’re losing money on prescriptions. “It would be nice to have a band aid fix to get by with until 2019. We don’t want pharmacies to go out of business, but this is a complicated situation and there’s no model for it. We’re in uncharted waters, but we need a good reimbursement rate.”

The opioid crisis has also been discussed in this interim session and will be addressed at length during the regular session next year. Arkansas, Watson said, is ranked second in the nation in opioid use and abuse, and this isn’t where the state needs to be ranked. “This is being looked at with the volume of opioids being prescribed. It’s scary. We’re looking at enhanced legislation with more severe penalties.”

Education, he said, has been quiet in comparison to other issues, but will be a major topic during the 2019 session – especially with the changes in school choice laws. “I’ve always tried to protect public schools,” he said, “but it could become easier (with school choice) to start charter and private schools. There’s a lot going on in education. We’ve allocated the money to maintain adequacy and haven’t cut back. Right now, we’re trying to get a balance budget passed.”



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