Thousands of Arkansans are at risk of losing their healthcare coverage this weekend for failing to comply with a recently enacted work requirement for the state's Medicaid expansion program. The deadline is Friday at 5 p.m.
August is the third month that a work requirement has been in place for the Arkansas Works program. Enrollees who fail to report three months in a row will lose their coverage on the first day of the following month. That means those who haven't reported anything will be cut from the program on Saturday.
About 4,900 beneficiaries did not meet the requirement for June and July, according to the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
Arkansas Works requires Medicaid participants to report 80 hours of work or other activities per month.
"If (Medicaid participants) don’t take action and don’t report the activities they’re doing or some exemptions they might have, then they would have that third month of not meeting requirements, and that would cause their healthcare coverage to end," said Marci Manley, a DHS spokeswoman.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families Health Policy Director Marquita Little, says, “People who have three months of non-compliance at the end of the month will be locked out of coverage for the remainder of the calendar year."
There are a variety of ways Arkansans can report their work requirements. They can:
- Report using the Arkansas Works Portal on Access Arkansas
- Go through the Registered Reporter process
- Visit a local DHS county office and talk to officials
Efforts have been made to raise awareness of the issue. Little says that one of the problems with the program is how quickly it was implemented.
"There's a short window—really not a whole lot of time between federal approval to implement the program and the program actually going live, which means we have very limited time as a state… to ensure a very robust outreach in education campaign."
She says it is likely that many people are working the required number of hours or could meet exemption requirements, but that the rush to implement the program is causing difficulties for spreading the word.
"If given the appropriate time to address them, we may see fewer people falling through the cracks. That’s probably what’s happening to people; they’re falling through the cracks."
For those who lose coverage as of Saturday, There will be a short grace period during which enrollees can report their status and regain coverage. The period will end September 5.
In June Arkansas became the first state to implement a work requirement to its Medicaid program. Three other states have since also added a work requirement.