Gov. Asa Hutchinson says Arkansas plans to roll out an awareness campaign to inform enrollees of the state's Medicaid expansion plan on ways they can report their work hours. The governor spoke with KUAR News about the change Thursday, a day after the Department of Human Services announced the expansion of a helpline for those enrolled in the Arkansas Works program.
Beginning Dec. 19, people can call the state directly to report how they are meeting the work requirement which was imposed earlier this year.
Hutchinson said making a phone call has always been an opntion for residents, along with other methods.
"There’s always been multiple ways, and that’s really been a misconception that’s out there. We try to focus that we want them to do it online," Hutchinson said. "That’s typical in jobs and communication, and so if they can do that, that’s great. But they’ve always had the availability to call as well and we’re expanding that to make it easier, but they’ve also had the opportunity to go into the DHS office."
Before the expansion, people on the Arkansas Works program would have to call the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care or a designated reporter. Now, residents can directly call DHS to report their hours.
According to J.R. Davis, communications director for the governor’s office, over 3,800 people have moved from Arkansas Works to having covering through their employment. Data from September to November, he said, indicates that more Arkansans are meeting the work requirement each month.
Hutchinson said the state is open to new ways to communicate reporting options for Arkansans.
"We’re going to try to do some promotion and advertising, we’ve utilized the earned media. But we’ll continue to look at it and see if there are ways to improve it as time goes on," Hutchinson said.
Bruno Showers, senior policy analyst, for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, say the phone line expansion and advertising how residents can report their hours are a step in the right direction, but there are further steps the state could take. He cited the hours the phone line is open as an example. Right now, the phone line, (855) 372-1084 is closed each day from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
"If you’re a working family, it could possibly be true that you need those hours. You might be busy the rest of the day taking care of kids, getting them ready for school, picking them up. You might not be able to log in or call until afterwards," Showers said.
Showers says he is glad the state is investing in outreach, but wants to see just how much funding is going towards informing residents. The state has not released just how much money is going towards advertising.