Arkansas became third state to create work requirements for those receiving health benefits under Medicaid expansion, after CMS approved the state’s plan, which features the strictest lockout seen so far.
The Arkansas Works program requires those eligible between the ages of 19 and 49 to demonstrate they have worked or engaged in job searches, training, school, health education, or volunteering for 80 hours per month to keep Medicaid benefits. Those who fail to do so for 3 months in a calendar year lose coverage for the rest of the calendar year, according to a statement
from Governor Asa Hutchinson’s office.
Exempt persons include the medically frail and disabled, pregnant women, those in substance abuse treatment, those caring for a sick person or minor child, and anyone already except from work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“I have often said that Arkansans understand the dignity of work,” Hutchinson said. “The approval of this work requirement will go a long way to create opportunities for able-bodied working-age Arkansans to enter into training or employment and ultimately climb the economic ladder.”
CMS Administrator Seema Verma was on hand to deliver Arkansas’ approval document. Prior to joining the Trump administration, she was a consultant who developed the work requirements that were recently approved for the Kentucky and Indiana Medicaid programs (Verma recused herself on those approvals).
In the statement, Hutchinson’s office said that a voluntary work referral program implemented last year had already shown success. Those who used the referral program were more likely to find a job than those who did not use the service. With mandatory work requirements, Arkansas officials expect more beneficiaries to take advantage of the referral service, the statement said.
Work requirements will be phased in over 4 months between June and September this year, starting with those 30 to 49 years old.
So far, CMS has not acted on Arkansas’ request to cap Medicaid at 100% of the poverty level without taking away any of the extra funds it had been receiving under the Affordable Care Act. Local reports in Arkansas estimate this would save the state $356 million
a year while ending coverage for 61,000 people.
The work rules are expected to affect 39,000 people, although it is not known how much the rolls will shrink. Arkansas has about 285,000 people in Medicaid.
Kentucky has already been sued
over its work rule requirements.