Medicaid: The Lived Experience

Through grant funding, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) participated in a project aimed to amplify the lived experiences of those within the Medicaid population. AACF was part of a cohort of child health policy and advocacy organizations coordinated by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. Our main goal was to learn more about the strengths of and opportunities for improvement within the Medicaid program. 

We worked with our community partners to seek out stories from Medicaid applicants, enrollees, and community providers. We focused on obtaining stories from historically excluded populations (the Marshallese community; African American/Black communities throughout the central, Delta, and southern areas of the state; and Hispanic/Latino communities), where higher rates of health disparities persist. Through each story, we were able to understand the importance of access to health care services. Arkansans expressed their gratitude for the Medicaid program because it provided them the opportunity to manage their conditions and attain life-saving treatment. Arkansans were also able to suggest what would be helpful to ensure comprehensive care for their families. 

Health coverage provides short- and long-term benefits to individuals, health care systems, and communities. Access to care is extremely important for child development and aids adults in diagnosing and managing health conditions. Health coverage also helps provide financial stability and economic support to both families and health care providers.

With the information provided by storytellers, our organization has developed the following list of advocacy areas:

  • Presumptive eligibility for children and pregnant women
  • 12-month postpartum coverage for new mothers to address the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis in Arkansas
  • Increased appointment, prescription, and transportation slot allotments to improve access to medical care
  • Improved/expedited processing of individuals within the Marshallese community; contracting with community providers in the Marshallese community to aid in processing applications to avoid application delays and problems with communication between agency and community members
  • Dental coverage for all Medicaid recipients with an increased allotment of coverage 
  • Increased SNAP allotment for low-income adults/older adult populations with subsidized housing

Medicaid Slots

Although Medicaid helps connect many Arkansans to medical care, there are limits on the number of services individuals may receive. In the following stories, Medicaid beneficiaries explain how hard it can be to receive adequate care because of the limited number of appointment, medication, and transportation service slots allocated each year.


Medicaid provides health coverage to more than  400,000 children in Arkansas. Parents share how access to medical services through ARKids First plays a crucial role in their children’s overall well-being.

Hear Regina’s Medicaid story.

Availability of Services

Some Arkansans have experienced difficulties obtaining necessary health treatment through Medicaid. Storytellers share their challenges of navigating through the health system.

Behavioral Health

Medicaid covers the cost of mental health services for those with behavioral health diagnoses to aid in the management of symptoms. Storytellers in this section share how these life-saving services are improving the quality of life of many Arkansans throughout the state.

Hear a snippet of SM’s Medicaid story.

Stories from the Delta

Access to comprehensive care is an issue for many residents within the rural Arkansas Delta. This is an even greater issue for historically excluded communities, who experience greater levels of health disparities. In the following stories, African-Americans in the Delta share the role Medicaid plays in their healthcare treatment.

The Marshallese Community

For the past 25 years, adults with a Compact of Free Association residency in this country were unable to receive Medicaid services due to an error within federal legislative changes. In Arkansas, among other places, that error left many Marshallese community members without healthcare. Up until February 2021, adults born in the Marshall Islands did not have access to Medicaid services, despite legally residing in the United States. These stories highlight the highs and lows of navigating through the Arkansas healthcare system due to past legislative injustices.

Hear a snippet of Lydia’s Medicaid story.
Participant’s name has been changed to uphold anonymity of personal identity.


Community and Medical providers explain the impact of Medicaid on their clients.

Other Impactful Stories

Arkansas Medicaid provides a pathway for many residents to manage their health conditions. These stories focus on the varied needs and experiences of Arkansans and the impact of services on their lives.

Hear a snippet of Ashley’s Medicaid story.
Participant’s name has been changed to uphold anonymity of personal identity.