Thousands Fail to Meet New Medicaid Work Mandates in Arkansas

The Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock

The Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock Shutterstock


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The state is the first to move forward with new requirements for beneficiaries.

Arkansas is kicking more than 4,500 people off Medicaid insurance coverage as of this month after they failed to meet the state's new work requirements, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this week. The state is phasing in the new mandates with more people each month—requiring recipients to show they work 20 hours a week, attend school or perform community service.

Arkansas is the first state to move forward with Medicaid work requirements for people covered under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of the program, as a federal judge earlier this summer blocked implementation of Kentucky’s proposed requirements. Any person who doesn’t comply with Arkansas’ new requirements for any three months out of a year will lose coverage and can’t apply again until the following year.

The state Department of Human Services told the Democrat-Gazette that of the 26,000 people who had to start reporting work, school or community service beginning in June, 4,574 had not complied for three months. In a statement to the paper, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the health agency had reached out to recipients in several ways to make sure they knew about the new mandates. "Personal responsibility is important," Hutchinson said. "We will continue to do everything we can to ensure those who qualify for the program keep their coverage, but we will also make sure those who no longer qualify are removed.”

But Jessica Green, a professor at Baruch College at City University in New York, wrote in a Health Affairs blog post that when she conducted interviews last month with 18 Medicaid recipients in northeast Arkansas, only 12 had heard of the requirements. A lawsuit is now pending about the Arkansas program.

Some people could get an extension until October, a state spokeswoman told Think Progress, applying for an exemption if they had a problem with the state's online system while trying to report. Critics of Arkansas' implementation of the work requirements have noted the reporting is largely done online, which could be a burden for those without dependable internet access.  

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Laura Maggi is Managing Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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