Why Aren't Arkansas Medicaid Enrollees Reporting Work Verification Data?

Jul 18, 2018

Gov. Asa Hutchinson with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma holding a signed and approved waiver for Arkansas's Medicaid program on May 30, 2018.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

More than a quarter of the 27,000 Arkansans subject to a new work requirement in order to keep Medicaid coverage did not satisfy the state’s new reporting rules, according to state officials. The work requirement is the first in the nation to be rolled out, with the approval from the Trump administration earlier this year.

Marquita Little, health policy director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, says she is concerned that people will lose insurance not because they don’t meet requirements or exemptions, but because she believes the state’s system of verification is flawed.

"There’s a portion of people who probably do meet an exemption or meet the work requirement, but they are falling through the cracks because they either aren’t completely aware of the requirement at this point or don’t know how to use and register with this online portal. The figures definitely underscore some of the early concerns that we expressed about the work requirement," said Little.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently said he isn’t fazed that the more than 7,464 enrollees didn’t satisfy the reporting requirement. He addressed the topic last week at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Little Rock

"I think some of the reasons the response is not high is they moved on in life, they might have moved, they might have got a better job. What we’re watching for is, we don’t want anybody to drop through the system. That’s why we’re working very, very hard to make sure that we’re calling them, they’re given multiple notices, we’re having our provider community reach out to them," said Hutchinson.

But Little argues that if churn data, or regular turnover off of the program, for Medicaid cases that were closed elsewhere in the program is indicative, then Hutchinson's expanation doesn't fit.

"Almost 40 percent of people are in a category of either unable to locate them or out of town. You have about one-fourth of people listed as failing to return information and around another one-fourth that are accounted for as 'other,'" Little said. "When we look at that, it paints a different picture as to the reasons why people are no longer in the program."

Arkansans will lose their Medicaid health insurance if they fail to meet exemptions or don’t meet the requirements for 80 hours of work-related activities a month, for three months in a year. School, vocational training, and volunteer hours are among the exemptions.

The Department of Human Services says the state could begin terminating coveragee plans in September. The requirement only applies to ages 30 to 49. Enrollees 19 to 29 will have to file starting in next year.