More than 7,000 fail to satisfy Arkansas Works requirement in first month

by Steve Brawner (BRAWNERSTEVE@MAC.COM) 696 views 

More than 7,000 of the 279,602 Arkansans benefiting from the state’s Arkansas Works program did not satisfy its work requirement in June. They face losing coverage if they continue to fail to satisfy the requirement during the next two months.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services released the numbers Friday afternoon (July 13) following the first month of the requirement.

The report said that 7,464 did not satisfy the work requirement, including 7,392 who reported no work activities. Due to closures unrelated to compliance, that number had fallen to 7,041 as of July 8. If those individuals fail to meet compliance standards three straight months, they will lose coverage.

Arkansas Works is the state program that uses mostly federal Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance for Arkansans with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. It was created in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court said states could not be forced under the Affordable Care Act to expand their Medicaid populations. Arkansas chose to participate in the expansion and obtained a waiver to use that money to purchase private insurance.

The state in March received a waiver from the Trump administration allowing it to require recipients ages 19-49 to engage in 80 hours of work, job training, education, volunteering or other activities. The work requirements are being phased in, first affecting recipients ages 30-49 this year and then those ages 19-29 next year.

According to the report, 27,140 Arkansas Works enrollees were notified in May that they were affected by the work requirement in June. Between the time the notices were sent and June 30, the number of affected individuals fell by 1,325 to 25,815 due to case closures or a change in circumstances.

DHS reported that 15,511 were exempt from reporting because they are already compliant through work or other activities, which DHS can track, said spokesperson Amy Webb. Another 2,395 reported an exemption – for example, obtaining a permanent job that involves working 80 hours on a monthly basis. Webb said those individuals no longer will have to report monthly, and DHS will spot-check their compliance.

The report said that 8,375 individuals were exempt from reporting in June because they were employed at least 80 hours a month. Another 3,480 were meeting the work requirements by already complying with the same requirements associated with receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Another 2,731 had at least one dependent child at home, and 2,208 were listed as medically frail or disabled. Among the other reasons for exemption included caring for an incapacitated person (128), being short-term incapacitated (164), and being pregnant (15).

Meanwhile, another 445 individuals satisfied the reporting requirement but are not exempt from further reporting because they do not have permanent jobs or other situations.

The report said that 14,140 Arkansas Works cases closed in June as a result of “churn.” Some of those individuals will take action after receiving a closure notice and return to the program. In 39% of those cases, DHS was unable to locate the client, or the client had moved out of state. Another 21% failed to return the requested information. In 5%, the enrollee requested closure, while the client was incarcerated in 4% of the cases.

In 11% of the cases, the household increased its income so that the recipient was no longer eligible.

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