Medicaid work requirements aren’t working in Arkansas

After work requirements for eligible Medicaid beneficiaries too effect in Arkansas, more than 7,000 people failed to report they worked at least 80 hours in June, the Associated Press reported.

Arkansas is one of three states that has enacted work requirements for adults on Medicaid to keep their healthcare benefits. Those who do not report or do not meet the new requirements are at risk of losing coverage.

The report from the state comes as the Trump administration has pushed for more work requirements in the Medicaid program. A recent report from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers noted 17.2 million Americans could be subjected to such requirements.

CMS announced it would allow states to submit waivers for work requirements for Medicaid programs in January. Arkansas was the first state to enact the measures, which took effect in June. Participants in the program will lose healthcare coverage if they don’t meet the 80-hour per month threshold for three months in a calendar year.

Most of the more than 27,000 people on Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion who were subject to the new requirements were exempt or met the requirement, the Department of Human Services (DHS) stated. Only 445 participants satisfied the reporting requirements, the AP reported.

“The first report is encouraging,” Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told the AP. “We are only two months in, and those on Arkansas Works are still learning the system. DHS has worked hard to make sure that everybody understands the requirements and how to comply.”

About 15,500 beneficiaries did not have to report because officials already determined they met the requirements, while nearly 2,400 reported an exemption. Arkansas’ work requirements impact able-bodied enrollees with no children age 30 to 49. The requirements will expand to include 19- to 29-year-olds next year.

Work requirements for Medicaid programs have caused controversy, with critics arguing vulnerable beneficiaries could be at risk of losing critical care coverage. A federal judge blocked Kentucky’s attempt to implement similar requirements in June, noting the Trump administration didn’t properly consider the effect of the policy on Medicaid’s population.

New Hampshire and Indiana have both received approval for work requirement policies.