More Than 4,600 Lose Medicaid in Arkansas Over Work Rule

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 8:14 am   2 min read

(Stephanie Dunn)

LITTLE ROCK — More than 4,600 people were kicked off Arkansas' Medicaid expansion for not complying with a work requirement last month, state officials said Monday, bringing the total number of people who have lost coverage since the rule was enacted this year to nearly 17,000.

The Department of Human Services said nearly 2,000 more people face the risk of losing coverage if they don't comply this month with the rule, which requires them to work 80 hours a month. Beneficiaries lose coverage if they don't meet the requirement three months in a calendar year, and they can't re-enroll until January.

The latest numbers were released by the agency days after it announced it set up a new helpline for people to call in and report their hours worked, along with a new advertising campaign aimed at letting beneficiaries know how to comply. Advocacy groups have criticized Arkansas' reliance on a website for reporting hours worked, saying it penalizes beneficiaries who don't have access to the Internet.

"Basically, it shows that the state's announcement last week was overdue," said Bruno Showers, senior policy analyst with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. "They should have been allowing reporting through different means and they should have invested in advertising and outreach on the front end instead of waiting for all these coverage losses to happen."

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said more than 4,100 people on the program have found work and that the percentage of those subject to the work requirement who are complying has increased from 73 percent in August to 87 percent last month.

"This is a strong indication that more and more people are learning about the requirement and following through with their reporting," he said in a statement.

Arkansas was the first state to enforce the requirement after the Trump administration allowed states to tie Medicaid coverage to work. The requirement is being challenged in federal court, and a federal advisory panel last month urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to temporarily stop Arkansas from enforcing the rule.

Arkansas' requirement applies only to the state's Medicaid expansion, which uses federal and state funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents, and not the traditional Medicaid program. More than 234,000 people are on the expansion program, and more than 64,000 of them were subject to the work requirement last month.

Once fully implemented, Arkansas' requirement will affect able-bodied enrollees on the program, ages 19 to 49, with no children. The requirement is being enforced on participants ages 30 to 49 this year and will expand to include those 19 to 29 years old next year.

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