Analysis: Data contradicts HHS claims on Arkansas Medicaid work requirements

Analysis: Data contradicts HHS claims on Arkansas Medicaid work requirements
© Greg Nash

Most of the 18,000 people who lost Medicaid coverage in Arkansas as a result of new work requirements have not found new jobs, according to an analysis of state data.

The analysis from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also found that most of those unemployed people are still uninsured.

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The data contradicts statements from Trump administration and state officials, who have claimed that most of the people who lost Medicaid have found jobs with health insurance coverage.

According to state data, just over 18,000 Medicaid beneficiaries lost coverage in the first six months the program was in effect for not complying with the work requirement. Only about 1,900 of those people to date have re-enrolled in Medicaid.

“That seems a fairly strong indication that the individuals who left the program were doing so because they got a job," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told the Senate Finance Committee last week.

Work requirements are a central feature of the Trump administration’s vision of turning Medicaid into a welfare program for the disabled and most in need. Officials argue that work requirements are a pathway out of poverty, and provide an incentive for people to work.

However, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis shows that only 1,981 people had matches in the state’s new hire database, indicating they found new work. That means there is no evidence that the more than 16,000 others who lost coverage found new work.

Even that number may be too high, the center said. The state database doesn’t show if the new jobs are full- or part-time work, or if they’re seasonal or permanent. It also doesn’t show if the new employee was previously unemployed or just changed jobs.

It also doesn’t indicate if the new job provides health insurance.

Arkansas became the first state to implement work requirements after gaining approval from the Trump administration last year.

Under the rules, recipients must work, go to school, volunteer or search for jobs for at least 80 hours a month. If beneficiaries don’t meet the requirement for three months in a calendar year, they are locked out of Medicaid for the rest of the year, but are eligible to re-enroll the following year. 

Critics allege the state’s numbers show that the rules aren't promoting Medicaid as a health program, and are merely kicking people off Medicaid to save the state money and penalize the poor.