Arkansas alters Medicaid work requirement after more than 12,000 drop out

By | December 13, 2018

Arkansas officials will start letting people on Medicaid report their work requirements by phone, saying they wanted to see more people participate in the program.

Previously the department of human services allowed people only to log their hours online, a provision that critics said was a barrier to people who didn’t have Internet access. The program, which adds work requirements to Medicaid in Arkansas, kicked off six months ago, and since then more than 12,000 people in the state are no longer enrolled in Medicaid.

“We are six months into this new Medicaid demonstration program, but wanted take the time now to access what areas we need to shore up or improve,” Cindy Gillespie, director of the human services department, said in a statement.

The requirements to work or train for work apply to adults who are not disabled and who qualify for government-funded Medicaid coverage because they make less than $ 17,000 a year. They have been encouraged by the Trump administration, and while a handful of states are planning similar measures, Arkansas is the only state that has enacted its program.

State officials said some people who didn’t log their hours had moved to another state, obtained a job, or increased their salary and no longer qualified, while others had failed to either work, take classes, or volunteer, or to log that they had done so.

To increase the number of people who abide by the rules, staff from the agency will start calling people who have not logged enough hours to meet the 80-hour-a-month requirement to work, volunteer, or take classes as a condition of staying enrolled in the program. The human services agency will launch an ad campaign to talk about the program and how people can meet the requirements .

The phone line will go into effect beginning Dec. 19 and will be open every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Enrollees can still also report their hours by having a friend do it for them, someone trained on how to operate the website, or by reporting the hours to the health insurance company that contracts with Medicaid.

Under Obamacare, states were allowed to expand government-funded Medicaid coverage to people under a specific the $ 17,000 a year threshold, regardless of other factors such as disability status or whether they are working. Medicaid otherwise covers pregnant women, people with disabilities, people in nursing homes, and children, all of whom members of the Trump administration and conservatives say should remain the focus of the program.

Though the work requirements contain multiple exemptions for people undergoing treatment for addiction and for caregivers, among other groups, critics say people will be unable to keep up with the reporting requirements and become uninsured. They have said that the programs are an attempt to throw people off Medicaid.