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Arkanas Governor Justifies Work Requirement For Medicaid Reciptients

Governor Asa Hutchinson says more than 4300 people on Medicaid were cut this month.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is justifying thousands of enrollees in the state's Medicaid expansion program losing coverage for not meeting a recently enacted work requirement. Thousands of people were cut at the beginning of September.

Arkansas is the first state in the nation to impose the restriction, requiring those on the program to report 80 hours worked each month. At a press conference Wednesday, Hutchinson said cutting these enrollees will save taxpayers money.

"So in this instance 4,350 times the $570 per month insurance cost results in a $30 million cost to the taxpayers to maintain that insurance for 4,300 enrollees that could have moved out of the state," Hutchinson said. "They could have got other employment they might be working on the side, or they just decide to leave the workforce, or some other circumstance. I think it would be common sense judgement of the people of Arkansas that we should not continue to pay $30 million a year for that cost."

Hutchinson said that number of cutting 4300 enrollees is higher than he would have liked and wants to see everyone in full compliance. 

Critics of the work requirement, which was imposed by Hutchinson, claim it is difficult for low income people on Medicaid to report their hours worked. Hutchinson said he is aware "a lot of the focus has been on the online system." Standing alongside the governor Cindy Gillespie, director of the Department of Human Services, said there are alternatives for those without internet access. 

"Our county offices, we got one in every county, and they're set up to take care whoever comes in," said Gillespie. "We're already set up to flex as musch as we need to flex as those other alternatives are needed."

In addition to the county offices Gillespie said that while the prefered method is for someone to go online, they have created ways for an enrollee to call in and someone will report their requirements met.

According to numbers provided by the Arkansas Department of Human Services they have done "extensive" outreach to those in the Medicaid program. That includes around 59,000 letters mailed to Arkansas Works beneficiaries, about 150,000 phone calls made to new and existing enrollees, and 77,000 emails sent, and roughly 6,000 text messages sent to the enrollees in the program.