/////Lawmakers Get Dose of Good News During UAMS Visit
Lawmakers Get Dose of Good News During UAMS Visit 2018-01-05T09:15:51+00:00

NOV. 7, 2005 | Arkansas ranks among the nation’s poorest states, has one of the country’s least healthy populations and faces skyrocketing Medicaid costs.

Despite such obstacles, the Arkansas lawmakers driving state health policy enjoyed some good news during an Oct. 25 visit to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). 

Meeting at the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, the state Senate and House Interim Committees on Public Health, Welfare and Labor seemed especially pleased with reports from UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D., and College of Pharmacy Dean Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., along with Roy Jeffus, director of the Division of Medical Services in the Department of Health and Human Services..

Gardner showed that UAMS is helping save millions of dollars in state Medicaid prescription drug costs, and Wilson outlined UAMS’ major growth plans to be accomplished without additional state revenues.

“This committee is excited because this is going to be a tremendous benefit to Arkansas,” Rep. Tommy Roebuck of Arkadelphia said after Wilson’s overview of UAMS’ funding, immediate construction plans and proposed expansions through 2013.

Wilson noted that UAMS has been able to sustain its substantial growth because of increased research funding, philanthropy and an increasing number of patients — many of them from outside Arkansas seeking UAMS’ world-class treatment.  

For example, UAMS has treated patients from 40 foreign countries and in the past three years has had revenues from outside the state totaling $250 million. And while state funding for UAMS has risen since 1985, it has dropped significantly as a percentage of the state’s budget. A graphic used by Wilson showed that state funding amounted to 46 percent of UAMS’ budget in 1985 compared to 10 percent today. Campus revenue, meanwhile, has grown from less than $100 million annually 20 years ago to about $900 million.

Gardner told the legislative panel that about $10 million in savings will be achieved this year in the Medicaid prescription drug program. The savings is a result of a new evidence-based drug selection process that is a collaborative effort between the College of Pharmacy and the state Department of Health and Human Services.

A committee of doctors and pharmacists considers drugs to be placed on the Preferred Drug List with input from the public, including the drug manufacturers.

Drugs that make the list are those considered to be the most effective and have the least cost. Costs are reduced with significant discounts and rebates from the manufacturer, Gardner said.

The program has been a huge success with few complaints, she said.

“Obviously, we made the right decision,” said Rep. Jay Bradford of White Hall, chairman of the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.

“My concerns have been addressed,” said Rep. Bill Pritchard of Elkins.

Lawmakers also learned that the Colorectal Cancer Act they approved earlier this year will be the focus of research overseen by UAMS’ Arkansas Cancer Research Center Cancer Control Department and College of Public Health.

The new law provides $1 million so that UAMS can set up a two-year demonstration project to provide colorectal cancer screenings in Arkansas.

It dovetails perfectly with a new, $4.2 million, five-year National Cancer Institute Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities grant recently awarded to Ronda Henry-Tillman, M.D., principal investigator of the Arkansas Cancer Community Networks.

This grant is to develop research, education, and policy interventions to reduce cancer health disparities in minority and underserved communities, said Charlotte Lewellen-Williams, the project’s policy analyst, and Glen Mays, associate professor and vice chairman for the Department of Health Policy and Management in the College of Public Health.

The Arkansas Cancer Community Networks policy model will provide a framework for evaluating and improving the colorectal cancer law, Lewellen-Williams said. The research also will provide evidence-based information for state and local policy-makers trying to decide the best ways to reduce other cancer disparities in Arkansas.