Arkansas Medicaid work requirements could cost thousands coverage, data show

Arkansas Medicaid work requirements could cost thousands coverage, data show
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New data released by the state of Arkansas on Wednesday show Medicaid enrollees are struggling to comply with the state's new work requirements, putting thousands at risk of losing health care. 

The requirements — which mandate that some Medicaid beneficiaries work or complete similar activities to retain benefits — went into effect in June after being approved by the Trump administration. 

Beneficiaries who don't report their work activities to the state, or do report but aren't meeting the 80-hour-per-month work requirement, could lose coverage if they don't meet the requirements for three months out of the year. 

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The state's data show that 5,426 people are in their second month of noncompliance.

A majority of beneficiaries subject to the work requirement are exempt from reporting to the state how they are meeting that obligation because they were shown to already be working when they enrolled in Medicaid. 

But the data show that those who must tell the state what they're doing to meet the requirement are overwhelmingly failing to do so. 

In July — the second month in which the work requirements were in effect — 12,722 people either failed to report their activities to the state or didn't meet the 80-hour-a-month requirement. 

The vast majority of those people — about 12,587 — didn't log on to the state's Medicaid website and report their activities. 

The remaining 135 people did report their activities, but failed to meet the 80-hour threshold. 

Overall, the state said, only 844 people required to report their activities to keep coverage reported at least 80 hours of work or other activities. 

The vast majority said they were already meeting similar work reporting requirements under the state's SNAP, or food stamp, program.

Advocates have worried Medicaid beneficiaries living in states with work requirements could lose coverage, simply by failing to meet reporting requirements. 

Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that most Medicaid enrollees who can work already do, but face barriers in complying with reporting requirements. 

Kaiser estimates that six in 10 adult Medicaid enrollees are already working. 

"However, since one in three Medicaid adults never use a computer or the internet and four in ten do not use email, many enrollees would face barriers in complying with work reporting requirements to maintain coverage," Kaiser wrote in a brief in June. 

The National Health Law Program filed suit against the Trump administration Tuesday for approving work requirements in Arkansas. 

The suit argues that imposing work requirements in Medicaid is not within the Trump administration’s authority without action from Congress, and enacting the measures is “threatening irreparable harm to the health and welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable in our country.”

In June, a federal judge blocked similar Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky, the first court test for the Trump administration’s initiative.