Starting tomorrow, some Arkansans will lose Medicaid due to work requirement | Arkansas Blog

Friday, August 31, 2018

Starting tomorrow, some Arkansans will lose Medicaid due to work requirement

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 at 9:15 AM

click to enlarge FULL SPEED AHEAD: Governor Hutchinson and DHS Director Cindy Gillespie (right) at a recent press roundtable on Medicaid. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • FULL SPEED AHEAD: Governor Hutchinson and DHS Director Cindy Gillespie (right) at a recent press roundtable on Medicaid.

On Saturday, Sept. 1, a group of Arkansans will almost certainly lose their health insurance due to noncompliance with the state's new work requirement for a certain subset of Medicaid beneficiaries. They'll still have a few days (until Sept. 5) to retroactively report information and get their coverage reinstated.

Here's the online portal at which beneficiaries should report work activity hours (or an exemption) to the state Department of Human Services. Beneficiaries can also get assistance by contacting their insurance carrier at one of the following numbers, provided by DHS:
Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield: 1-800-800-4298
Ambetter: 1-877-617-0390
QualChoice: 1-866-838-9186

Those who lose coverage tomorrow — likely numbering in the thousands, based on numbers released from DHS last month — will be the first in the history of the Medicaid program, in any state, to be dropped from coverage because of such a rule. Arkansas is one of several states that received permission from federal health authorities to implement a work requirement for certain non-disabled adults earlier this year, but it's the only one to successfully get its mandate off the ground. The requirement has been championed by Governor Hutchinson.

A work requirement in Kentucky was blocked by a federal judge in June after beneficiaries and health care access advocacy groups sued. A similar suit was filed in Arkansas in August but has yet to be acted upon by the court.

The September 1 date is important because it marks three months since the requirement first went into effect for some beneficiaries, on June 1. Under Arkansas's rule, if a beneficiary has not reported work activities or an exemption for three months out of the year, he or she will automatically lose coverage. The beneficiary then has a brief grace period — until the fifth day of the month — to report retroactively. If the beneficiary doesn't do so by 9 p.m. on Sept. 5, he or she will be "locked out" of the program for the remainder of the calendar year, meaning he or she will be ineligible until January 1, 2019.

DHS figures released earlier this summer show a little over 7,000 people were out of compliance for the month of June. Of those, 5,476 remained non-compliant for a second month, in July. DHS will release noncompliance numbers for August in the coming days, but it's extremely unlikely that all of those 5,476 beneficiaries successfully reported their information in August.

Arkansas's work requirement applies only to a group of people on "Arkansas Works," the health insurance program for low-income adults created by Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid. There are about 265,000 Arkansas Works recipients in total. This year, only adults ages 30-49 are subject to the requirement, and, next year, the 19-29 age group will be added. (Those ages 50-64 will not be subject to the requirement.) Beneficiaries have to report at least 80 hours per month of work activities (including volunteer hours and school) or else be eligible for an exemption, such as having a dependent child in the home. Most beneficiaries are eligible for an exemption, and many were automatically granted an exemption by DHS based on data the agency already had in its system.

However, for the thousands of beneficiaries who not automatically exempt, the work rule may pose a significant challenge. Work activities can only be reported through an online portal — rather than by phone or mail — which may be inaccessible during much of the day. Many beneficiaries may be unaware of the requirement, or may wrongly assume that if they are working, they are meeting the rules. Yet it's not enough to simply be employed: Beneficiaries must create an account via the online portal and report their hours on a monthly basis. (Most Medicaid expansion beneficiaries do indeed have jobs, data shows.)

Since the lockout won't begin until the fifth day of the month, why will coverage end for beneficiaries on the first of the month? Marci Manley, a spokesperson for DHS, explained the issue as follows:

The coverage will initially close effective at the end of Aug. 31. So as of Sept. 1 – someone who had not met the requirement for two months already and had not reported at that time enough activities to meet the work requirement would have their coverage terminated effective Aug. 31 and the system would show their coverage as no longer active.

However, if they report between Sept. 1 and Sept. 5 at the deadline, their case would be reopened retroactive to September 1st. The reason for that is that the coverage is monthly coverage from first of month to end of month. The Sept. 1 – Sept. 5 grace period gives them additional time to keep their coverage.

If they do not report activities/exemptions and meet the work and community engagement requirement by the deadline on Sept. 5 (by 9 p.m.) then their coverage would remain closed, and they could reapply for coverage at the start of the next calendar year.

Tags: , , , ,


Favorite

Comments (9)

Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

  • Supreme Court overturns contempt order against DHS for at-home services rule

    The justices were split, 5-2, with Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justice Jo Hart dissenting. The ruling appears to have no immediate impact for ARChoices beneficiaries.
    • Apr 18, 2019
  • Update: State Supreme Court orders new trial in Torres capital murder case

    The court remanded the case for a new trial. The reversal was due to an underlying flaw in the legal arguments made by prosecutors in the case, turning on the question of whether an Arkansas trial court had jurisdiction in regards to the underlying felony of rape.
    • Apr 18, 2019
  • Arkansas Medicaid sees enrollment bump

    Though the rise is modest, it is notable because the Medicaid expansion population has shrunk almost every month for the past two years. As highlighted by Governor Hutchinson, enrollment peaked at around 330,000 in early 2017 but has been declining ever since.
    • Apr 15, 2019
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Little Rock school activists announce events for 60th anniversary of Central High crisis

    The group is not affiliated with the official "Reflections of Progress" commemoration of the 60th anniversary. However, at least two of the Little Rock Nine may be joining the group for an event at 2:30 p.m. at the state Capitol in the Old Supreme Court Chamber.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Trump tariffs hit farmers hard

    Well, the trade war has begun and the early returns for farmers are not good — sharp reductions in the prices for soybeans and corn. You may have heard that Arkansas, which overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, has some agricultural interests, particularly in soybeans.
    • Jul 6, 2018
  • Arkansas legislature rejects bipartisan effort to study race relations

    On Friday, the Arkansas Legislative Council soundly rejected a bipartisan effort by two senators to to create a temporary legislative subcommittee to study race relations in the state.
    • Sep 15, 2017

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation