Following the filing of a federal lawsuit concerning the state’s new Medicaid work-reporting policy in Arkansas, Rich Huddleston, Executive Director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, issued the following statement:
Today, a lawsuit was filed in federal court challenging the new state policy that requires people with Arkansas Works health insurance to report their work hours every month through a complicated, online-only process. Arkansas Works provides coverage for about 285,000 low-income Arkansans who have few other affordable coverage options and risk going without needed health care without this program. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has advocated tirelessly to ensure that every individual in this state has access to good quality health care, which is the reason that we’ve strongly opposed this new policy.
It has been touted as a way to ensure Arkansans are working, but in reality it only creates costly bureaucratic red tape and new barriers to coverage. As we’ve pointed out in the past, most enrollees are already working or will be exempt from the requirement. It unnecessarily puts people at risk of accidentally losing their insurance simply because they do not understand the complicated reporting process, or they cannot report online through the required portal because they lack internet access.
The lawsuit aims to overturn this cumbersome policy, which is the first experiment of this kind to be implemented in the nation. The policy started in June, and since that time, we’ve seen that thousands of enrollees failed to report during the first month. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since enrollees must use the online portal even though Arkansas ranks 46th in the nation for internet access. Enrollees lose coverage after failing to report for three months in a calendar year. It’s important to note that those three months do not have to be consecutive.
AACF stands in support of the individuals who were willing to speak up and be a voice for all families that will be harmed by this policy. Instead of taking away health insurance, which helps ensure that people are healthy enough to work, we should be focused on creating access to more job opportunities. In fact, national research shows that Medicaid expansion itself leads to increased labor force participation, increased employment, and more volunteerism – all without a punitive work-reporting policy. We think it’s time for leaders in our state to take a closer look at what Arkansans need in order to take care of their families.