The 18,000 Arkansans who lost healthcare due to the state's work reporting requirement could begin receiving coverage again if a bill introduced Monday passes in the legislature.
Last week a federal judge ruled the requirement was unconstitutional. Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Mariana, is the bill's co-sponsor. During a press conference Monday, he said the Department of Human Services has been unwilling or unable to share contact information for those who have lost coverage.
"We want DHS, by virtue of this legislation, to go get those 18,000. If you removed them, now I want you to be as vigorous and aggressive to go and get them. We'll be glad to help you," Murdock said.
He was joined by members of the House Democratic Caucus and the bill's sponsor Rep. Andrew Collins, D-Little Rock. Collins said last week's ruling by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg was no surprise.
"From the start, we had clear indications that the reporting requirement was illegal because last summer a federal court said exactly that about a similar Kentucky requirement," Collins said. "We've also always known that the Arkansas reporting requirement was functionally broken, a mess, and would lead to thousands of people being unable to comply."
Critics of the work requirement have described it as a computer literacy test and said it unfairly disadvantaged people with minimal computer skills. The bill, if passed, would automatically reinstate healthcare without requiring those who lost it to reapply. The legislation would also declare an emergency in order to override the normal 90-day waiting period for legislation to take effect. A vote on the bill is expected as early as next week.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has asked the U.S. Justice Department to appeal the judge's decision.