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Arkansas Department of Health officials address concerns about Medicaid disenrollment process

Arkansas Department of Health
KATV-Channel 7
In July, officials from the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services will have to report to the federal government about the state's Medicaid disenrollment process. The state disenrolled about 78,000 recipients between May and June.

During an interview with KARK Channel 4’s Capitol View, officials with the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services provided an update on the Medicaid disenrollment process.

The disenrollment process is removing Medicaid recipients, who were only eligible to receive Medicaid coverage through the public health emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of last year, Congress scheduled for the public health emergency to end this year.

Between May and June, about 78,000 Medicaid recipients have been disenrolled. Federal officials from the Biden administration have raised concerns about the amount of disenrollments by Arkansas. Janet Mann, state Medicaid director, addressed the criticism from federal officials.

“The criticism has been that you're removing too many children, but I would also like to note that in the past couple of years, we’ve had two minimum wage increases in the state of Arkansas and we have record low unemployment at 2.7% in May,” she said.

In addition to an increase in their incomes, Mann said another reason why enrollees are disenrolled is because they don’t return eligibility forms or send the additional information the Department of Health requests. Mann said there is a process in place for these enrollees who didn’t submit this paperwork to gain their coverage back.

Medicaid Work requirement

Earlier this year, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders, a Republican, said she didn’t rule out calling a special session to address the state’s Medicaid program. Sanders has expressed support for adding a work requirement for Medicaid recipients.

Kristi Putnam, Arkansas’ Secretary for the Department of Human Services, said a waiver has been sent to federal officials to review the work requirement. Mann said she views the waiver as a way to improve the state’s labor force participation rate and workforce training.

“The other goal is if you are working and you would like some additional training and additional opportunities to grow in your current position or find a new position, we feel this waiver can create that opportunity,” Mann said.

Putnam said there is no timetable for when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) could approve the waiver for the work requirement.

According to the Associated Press, a federal judge in 2019 blocked former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, from placing a work requirement on Medicaid recipients. Last year, a federal judge did approve Georgia to put a partial work requirement on Medicaid recipients.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.