Gov. Asa Hutchinson expected to make an announcement tomorrow on Medicaid eligibility mess | Arkansas Blog

Monday, August 17, 2015

Gov. Asa Hutchinson expected to make an announcement tomorrow on Medicaid eligibility mess

Posted By on Mon, Aug 17, 2015 at 5:22 PM

click to enlarge HUTCHINSON'S MEDICAID MESS: The governor is expected to announce next steps tomorrow.
  • HUTCHINSON'S MEDICAID MESS: The governor is expected to announce next steps tomorrow.
The AP's Andrew Demillo reports that Gov. Asa Hutchinson will announce tomorrow what the next steps are regarding the state's troubled eligibility verification system for Medicaid. 

Tomorrow marks the end of a two-week moratorium that Hutchinson imposed on cancellation notices and coverage terminations. Almost 50,000 Arkansans are facing losing their coverage even though many or most of them are eligible for Medicaid according to the state's own data. The state imposed a 10-day deadline (with a little bit of wiggle room in practice) for beneficiaries to reply with necessary paperwork to the confusing and vague income verification letter, and tens of thousands did not respond in time. Others did respond in time but had their coverage terminated when DHS was unprepared to handle the volume and was unable to process their responses before the deadline hit. 

Hutchinson imposed the moratorium in order to temporarily stop any more people's insurance from being cancelled while DHS got their act together; however, his action did nothing to protect the nearly 50,000 who are already facing a lose of coverage. Thus far, Hutchinson has refused to consider adjusting the 10-day deadline. 

That deadline arguably runs afoul of federal law, and multiple sources tell the Times that the federal Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has been looking in to a "compliance issue" regarding this renewal process. However, DHS officials told the Times today that they have been in frequent communication with the feds and everything is kosher. 

I asked DHS this morning whether cancellation letters (and terminations of coverage set for September 1) would resume tomorrow. I also asked whether the agency has caught up on the backlog of responses, and whether they were now prepared to promptly and smoothly process responses — both for new income verification letters as well as beneficiaries who have already received cancellations and follow up now. Keep in mind, a lot of the folks that have been cancelled will have to be reinstated: eligible beneficiaries can still send in paperwork either before coverage is actually terminated or during a 90-day window after termination. In other words, the volume that DHS is trying to deal with is going to get worse before it gets better. I have not heard back from DHS on all of this, but will update this post if I do. 

Presumably, if they are caught up with the paperwork, there's another wave of cancellation notices coming soon resulting from income verification letters sent before the moratorium. So that 50,000 number could potentially be growing. 

UPDATE: KUAR managed to get in touch with DHS spokesperson Amy Webb: 

Expanded staffing levels called for by the governor on August 4th are not up to scale yet either.

Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Webb told KUAR on Monday that she can not confirm when the two week halt is supposed to end. Webb wrote in an e-mail, “No. The Governor will decide tomorrow how he’d like us to proceed.”

Part of the issue, as I understand it, is that it takes time to train and hire new staff. More from Webb, via KUAR

We currently have 300 employees who have volunteered to work overtime. That overtime started last Monday and continued through the weekend. We’ve also re-assigned and trained 20 staff from within the Division of County Operations to support the call center.

We’re also in the processing of temporarily re-assigning and training 10 staff from other divisions. That all should be completed by next week.

We’re also in processing of filling vacant positions, which takes a bit more time, and hiring temporary workers. We hope to begin their training in the next couple of weeks and they will be onboard to help us complete the process and stay on schedule.

These workers will continue for at least a couple months. I don’t have all the details on this just yet.

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