The backlog of overdue Medicaid applications has fallen from 146,000 in May to 8,912 today, with the rest hopefully resolved by the end of December, the director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Wednesday in a letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson and in testimony before state legislators.
The backlog involves Medicaid eligibility cases that either are pending, renewals, or changes of circumstance. More than half of the remaining cases, 4,851, are related to a change of circumstance.
DHS director Cindy Gillespie told reporters after a meeting of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force that the department hopes to clear the rest of the overdue cases by the end of the year. The overdue cases at one time stretched back to 2013.
DHS began processing the backlog in June. In August, it hired as contractors Maximus, eSystems and Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care. AFMC handled the call center, transforming wait times from hours before it took that responsibility to a few minutes.
“I gave them an impossible task when I said, ‘Clear it by the end of the year,’ but they are killing themselves to do it, so I admire the work that they’ve been doing,” she said of her staff and the contractors.
Gillespie said it took about 45 days to determine how many cases were backlogged. DHS had to know the size of the backlog before it could create a plan to reduce it.
“It’s what somebody said today up there: Once you actually measure something, you can tackle it,” she said.
In her letter to Hutchinson, Gillespie said DHS has put into place procedures to keep its caseload current, including interfacing with the Arkansas Geographic Information Service to validate addresses provided by citizens. The agency has also begun a monthly match with the Department of Health to learn of deceased recipients, and a match with the Department of Correction to identify incarcerated individuals.
The department in December will send a mass mailing to all Arkansans enrolled in the state’s private option informing them of changes that will create the program’s new version, Arkansas Works. The private option/Arkansas Works uses federal Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance for individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Returned notices will be used to terminate cases.
The agency also will conduct a three-month pilot program to detect unreported income from high-asset recipients. The pilot will help determine if a broader review is needed.
“We can do things to keep the rolls not just current but also accurate once we’re caught up,” she said.
In addition to the overdue casework, another 15,418 cases are current, meaning the application was submitted within the past 45 days.