A Service of UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Arkansas governor announces intention to seek Medicaid work requirement

The office of the Arkansas Department of Human Service in Little Rock.
The exterior of the headquarters of the Arkansas Department of Human Services is seen in this file photo.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced her intention Wednesday to add a work requirement for some Arkansas Medicaid recipients. Sanders was joined by Department of Human Services Secretary Kristi Putnam to express her concern that too many Americans are dependent on government assistance.

“When able-bodied Arkansans don't work, volunteer or go to school, they aren't just a burden on the taxpayer, they are also being denied a chance to achieve independence from the welfare system,” the governor said.

Much of Sanders' remarks focused on work and government dependence.

“People who have a connection to their community either through work, through education, through volunteer activity should be an incentive for people not to be fully dependent on the government,” she said. “And encouraging that connection, giving back, those are things that we know advance quality of life.”

The governor is asking the Biden Administration for a waiver to allow DHS to implement the work requirement. Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson tried to institute a similar policy called “Arkansas Works” which required certain Medicaid enrollees to report 80 hours of work each month to an online portal. The policy was later struck down by a federal judge, after 18,000 people lost coverage.

Sanders says this new policy would survive a court challenge because those who don't adhere to the requirement will not lose health insurance, instead reverting to fee-for-service coverage.

“We expect to get the work requirement,” Sanders said.

Putnam said she hopes the program could go into effect next year.

“By January 1st, 2024, that is our proposed effective date of the amendment,” she said.

President Joe Biden has said he will not support new Medicaid work requirements. The Democratic Party of Arkansas said in a statement the work requirement “will hurt Arkansans and fail in the courts.”

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.