LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal advisory panel is urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to temporarily stop Arkansas from enforcing the state's Medicaid work requirement, amid concerns that some recipients may not have access to the internet that they need to report their work hours to the state.
Arkansas in June became the first state to implement a Medicaid work requirement after President Donald Trump's administration said it would allow states to require people on its Medicaid expansion programs to work or volunteer. More than 8,400 Arkansas residents lost their coverage in September and October because they failed to comply with the requirement.
The Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program Payment and Access Commission sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday expressing concern about how many people have lost health coverage, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The requirement applies to people enrolled in Arkansas Works, a program that covers residents who became eligible for Medicaid when the state extended eligibility to residents with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level. Enrollees must spend 80 hours a month on work or approved activities — and they must report it online to the state. Those who fail to comply for three months during a year lose their coverage and are barred from re-enrolling for the rest of the year.
The commission, which was created by Congress to make policy recommendations for low-income health care programs, is calling for a pause in disenrollment to modify the program.
Penny Thompson, chairman of the commission, wrote in her letter that the requirement to report through a website "may be challenging for beneficiaries given limited internet access in the state and the multi-stage process for establishing an account and entering information." She also said enrollees may need help finding and keeping a job.
Only about 1,530 enrollees met the requirement in September by reporting their hours, while about 16,535 failed to report any activities.
Arkansas Medicaid Director Dawn Stehle said last month that the commission's "attempt to establish itself as a monitor over individual state Medicaid programs is a new and slippery path that should be reconsidered."
A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the agency and the Health and Human Services department had no comment on the commission's letter.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com