Arkansas Works’ rolls cut by another 4,109 because of work mandate

by Steve Brawner (BRAWNERSTEVE@MAC.COM) 353 views 

Another 4,109 former beneficiaries of the Arkansas Works program have been removed from the program for failing to comply with its work and community engagement requirement, after 4,353 were removed a month ago.

A total of 8,462 have now been removed. Another 4,841 have not complied with the requirement for two months and will lose their benefits if they fail to comply another month. A total of 7,748 individuals have not complied one month.

The latest numbers were revealed in a report provided by the Arkansas Department of Human Services Monday (Oct. 15).

Under a waiver obtained this year through the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), enrollees who fail to meet the requirement for three months in a calendar year lose coverage and are not eligible to regain it until Jan. 1, 2019.

Unless recipients are exempt from either the requirement or from reporting their activities, they must certify that they are working 80 hours per month, engaged in job training or educational activities or doing community service work.

The 4,109 cases closed due to non-compliance represented 27% of the 15,276 closures in September. Another 26% of the cases were closed because recipients failed to return requested information. Fifteen percent (15%) were closed because household income increased.

According to the agency’s latest report, 73,266 individuals ages 30-49 were subject to the work requirement in September. Of that amount, 52,714 were exempt from reporting their activities. About half, 25,368, were exempt because they were employed at least 80 hours per month. Meanwhile, 16,757 did not satisfy the work requirement, while 2,263 reported an exemption and 1,532 satisfied the requirement.

Arkansas Works covered 252,642 individuals Oct. 1, a number that has been reduced from the first of the year, when there were 285,564 recipients.

As of Aug. 28, the program covered 34,075 individuals in Pulaski County, the county with the most individuals served. The state’s two northwest counties, Washington (14,588) and Benton (13,543), were second and third. Sebastian was fourth (11,102) followed by Garland (10,837). Rounding out the top 10 were Craighead (9,283), Faulkner (9,157), Jefferson (8,111), White (7,973) and Saline (7,524) counties.

Originally known as the “private option,” Arkansas Works was created by Republican legislators and Gov. Mike Beebe in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could choose whether or not to expand their Medicaid populations under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Many Republican-leaning states chose not to expand their populations. Arkansas did, but instead of simply expanding Medicaid, it used mostly federal funds to purchase private health insurance for those lower-income individuals.

After Gov. Asa Hutchinson was elected, he embraced the program, helping it each year attain the 75% support required in both the Arkansas House and Senate to fund the program. In last week’s governor’s debate broadcast by AETN, he said the work requirement was necessary to ensure legislative support.

Various individuals, such as pregnant women, are exempt from the work requirement. Arkansas began implementing the work requirement June 1 for recipients ages 30-49 and will expand that requirement to individuals ages 19 to 29 during the first part of next year.

Three Arkansans have filed suit in U.S. District Court, saying the federal executive branch bypassed the legislative process and acted on its own to “comprehensively transform” Medicaid.

The plaintiffs are represented by Legal Aid of Arkansas, the National Health Law Program, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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