Thousands Of Low-Income Arkansans Just Lost Their Health Coverage

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“A number of people were at risk for losing their Medicaid health coverage because of complex life circumstances, not because of a conscious decision related to the work requirement.”

Earlier this year, the Trump administration revealed they were considering imposing work or job training requirements on people as a condition for obtaining health insurance under the Medicaid government program for the underprivileged.

Couple of months later in June, Arkansas became the first state to put into effect the controversial requirements on tens of thousands of state’s low-income residents.

The rule required non-exempt beneficiaries to report how they were meeting the 80-hour a month work requirement every month. The condition could be fulfilled by work or activities such as skills training, education, job search, volunteering or caregiving.

However, just recently, the state data revealed more than 4,500 low-income Arkansans lost their health insurance over the weekend because they failed to report the work hours online for three consecutive months.

According to Arkansas Department of Human Services spokesperson Amy Webb, the recipients of the program were provided with a five-day grace period to report work activities.

“If they do so they get their coverage back and it is retried back to the date their coverage ended so there will be no lapse in coverage,” Webb told Think Progress in an email. “In addition, some of those could report a change that bump them out of that category, had their case closed for other reasons, or become compliant or exempt since that Sept. 3 date.”

In addition, the state reportedly plans to give beneficiaries until October to apply for a “good cause exemption” if they encountered some technical glitch while reporting their work hours online.

However, for those who fail to meet the deadline completely, they will reportedly be locked out of health insurance until next year. It wasn’t made clear whether individuals who lost their coverage were notified or not.

It isn’t for the first time the residents of Arkansas failed to meet the state's new Medicaid work requirements.

Just a month after the law took effect, more than 7,000 Arkansas residents ended up not meeting the requirements. However, there weren’t any reports of recipients losing their health plans because of it.

But, it appears, officials are now going to penalize people by taking away their health coverage for failing to comply with the law.

In order to get the input of how those impacted feel about it, Health Affairs got in touch with 18 beneficiaries living in counties that supported President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

“What I found was a profound lack of awareness about the policy,” wrote Health Affairs’ Jessica Greene. “A number of people were at risk for losing their Medicaid health coverage because of complex life circumstances, not because of a conscious decision related to the work requirement.”

Though there’s nothing wrong with encouraging people who are capable of working to work, the government officials apparently didn’t take into account the issues Arkansans might face that makes working difficult for them, such as accessing transportation to get to and from work, internet or need to care for family members.

For instance, according to the Census Bureau, Arkansas has the second-lowest rate of home internet access in the nation, which is a major problem considering recipients can only report hours online.

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