By now, you've all heard the news that the DC District Court struck down the work reporting requirements in the Arkansas Works Medicaid program. As of now, no more people will be kicked off of coverage, and nobody has to report their work activity. In the short term, at least 5,000 people who would have lost coverage at the end of March were able to keep it. In the longer term, this ruling protects the health care of the roughly 170,000 Arkansas Works beneficiaries who are under the age of 50 and whose coverage could have been threatened. The court case was a joint effort between Legal Aid of Arkansas, the National Health Law Program, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. We are grateful to our partners in the litigation for their hard work on behalf of low-income Arkansans.
Despite the good news, the work is not done. As a result of the work requirements, DHS terminated over 18,000 people from their health insurance. Only around 2,000 of them have signed back up. That means there are around 16,000 people who lost coverage who probably are eligible to get it back. The legislature does not allow DHS to spend any resources to let people know they can re-enroll. This means that many of the people who lost coverage don't know they can sign back up for Arkansas Works insurance. The hard work of spreading the word will fall to service providers like legal aid, libraries, health centers, food pantries, homeless service organizations, and other community organizations. The flyer we are using is posted here. Please feel free to spread it widely. We also want to hear the stories of people who lost coverage. Please just call us at (800) 967-9224 and Press 4.
Also, the issue of work requirements is front and center both locally and nationally. Here in Arkansas, the legislature recently passed a bill to make the work requirements in SNAP (food stamps) tighter, a move that will likely lead more people to lose benefits needed to feed themselves and their families. In addition, many other states are thinking about putting work requirements on their Medicaid programs. Legal Aid of Arkansas is available to share our experiences with the work requirements and educate community groups, churches, services providers, or others about the harmful impact the work reporting requirements have had on our clients. Please contact us at (800) 967-9224 and Press 4 for more information on having Legal Aid present to your group.
Finally, the federal government and state of Arkansas are appealing the ruling of the DC District Court. Even at the fastest pace possible, the appeals process will take several months. It could go much slower. During the appeal, Legal Aid of Arkansas, the National Health Law Program, and the Southern Poverty Law Center will be standing by our clients and fighting on their behalf to keep the work reporting requirements from coming back. Please keep checking back for the latest updates on the court case, re-enrollment, and community education efforts.