Matt Mershon with our content partner, KATV Ch. 7, reports:
Thousands of signatures sit in the governor’s office on a petition asking Governor Asa Hutchinson to reinstate healthcare coverage for more than 50,000 Arkansans who have had their Medicaid and Private Option policies cancelled in the last month. The push comes even after the Department of Human Services extended the deadline for people to respond to re-determination notices a week ago.
Dozens gathered in the Old Supreme Court room inside the State Capitol before marching to the governor’s office on Wednesday.
Bill Kopsky, executive director for Arkansas Citizens First Congress, said the income verification deadline extension does not help the Arkansans who have already had their coverage terminated in the Medicaid expansion debacle. The new 30-day deadline only helps people who have yet to receive a re-determination notice or haven’t already had their health care status determined.
Two people spoke out about their troubles due to losing healthcare coverage. Jacksonville resident, Randy Dollar, said he was covered under a Private Option plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arkansas until December 2015.
But while Dollar was receiving care at the Cleveland Clinic for open-heart surgery, Dollar received a letter saying his coverage was cancelled on July 31 – he didn’t receive the termination notice until three days later. He didn’t even notice his policy had been cancelled until he was couldn’t receive drugs related to his heart condition.
“The pharmacist came up and said your insurance has been terminated,” said Dollar.
Dollar said he now owes between $500,000-$750,000 in medical bills for costs incurred while he was apparently without coverage. Dollar said even though his policy has been reinstated by DHS, it took several attempts and he now faces the battle of trying to get reimbursed for the bills he acquired during the period without healthcare.
As of August 31, DHS said more than 55,000 Arkansans are still without their Medicaid or Private Option plans. In the last two weeks, the number of those reinstated by DHS have climbed from about 2,000 to a little over 3,500 people. Amy Webb, communications director for DHS said almost 2,400 people have had their coverage ended because they were deemed ineligible for the Medicaid expansion program.
Advocates at the State House on Tuesday say they support coverage ending for those who are no longer eligible, but say that’s not the case for most.
“The evidence shows a great many people who’ve been terminated so far actually do qualify and should remain with assistance,” said Mark Robertson, co-chair of Arkansas Citizen’s First Congress Steering Committee.
The faith community chimed in, also asking Gov. Hutchinson to “do the right thing”, citing scripture.
“It is incumbent upon each of us to remember those who are vulnerable, who need our help and to remember the children,” said Steve Copley of the Arkansas Interfaith Alliance.
Speakers marched their petition with 2,500 signatures to the governor’s office, asking him to reconsider his position on the Medicaid expansion situation.
“The uninsured rate for kids is down to around six percent, for adults it’s been cut in half – down to around 11 percent,” said Rich Huddleston, executive director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. “It would be a shame and a travesty to go back on all the progress that this state has made over the last couple of decades in reducing the rates of uninsured kids and adults.”
J.R. Davis, spokesperson for Gov. Hutchinson, declined to comment for this story.
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