Arkansas makes news for slashing health coverage of working poor | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Arkansas makes news for slashing health coverage of working poor

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2018 at 1:38 PM

click to enlarge PUTTING THE POOR TO WORK: Gov. Asa Hutchinson says Medicaid work rule is working. Not for almost 5,000 tossed off Medicaid this week. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • PUTTING THE POOR TO WORK: Gov. Asa Hutchinson says Medicaid work rule is working. Not for almost 5,000 tossed off Medicaid this week.

Arkansas's cut of more than 4,500 people from Medicaid coverage for failing to qualify with computer-only reporting on 80 hours of work a month is drawing national attention.

Think Progress reports on the news yesterday of the first round of cuts, likely to be repeated in the days ahead with an ultimate toll of tens of thousands, unless a federal court suit produces an injunction against the work program, as happened in Kentucky.

The article notes those cut this week are locked out for the remainder of the year, whether they knew about the work rule or not or whether they had insurmountable computer access problems.

The computer situation is so bad, as we reported last night, that the state has given a grace period to those who've gone three months without a report.

To get a better sense of how those impacted feel about it, Health Affairs interviewed 18 recipients living in counties that supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

“What I found was a profound lack of awareness about the policy,” wrote Health Affairs’ Jessica Greene. “A number of people were at risk for losing their Medicaid health coverage because of complex life circumstances, not because of a conscious decision related to the work requirement.”

Recipients had mixed feelings about Medicaid work requirements, saying they believe those who can work should, but that government officials didn’t account for health issues, transportation, or internet access. Arkansas has the second-lowest rate of internet access at home countrywide, which complicates matters, as recipients can only report hours online.

Three Medicaid recipients are already suing the Trump administration for approving the policy, as it threatens the coverage they need to treat their pre-existing conditions. Already, a federal judge temporarily blocked Kentucky’s slew of Medicaid changes — including work requirements — calling them “arbitrary and capricious” and concluding that officials didn’t think through how many people would lose their health plans. The newest data seems to show that Arkansas officials also didn’t think, or didn’t care, about how many people would lose coverage.

Answer is a): Don't care.

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