Published: Fri, March 09, 2018
Economy | By Shawn Conner

Arkansas becomes third state to require Medicaid recipients to work

Arkansas becomes third state to require Medicaid recipients to work

With this approval, Arkansas becomes one of only three states that now mandates work for people who want to keep health benefits funded by Medicaid expansion dollars. Traditional Medicaid recipients are not affected.

"The Trump administration's approval of Arkansas' harsh work requirement in Medicaid will likely set back the state's considerable progress under the Affordable Care Act in increasing coverage and improving access to care, health and financial stability for low-income Arkansans", said Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

More than 285,000 people are on the expansion program.

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"This is not about punishing anyone", the Republican governor said at a news conference with Seema Verma, who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "Or they might be in a minimum wage job, and they need more skill training to move up and get a better paying job", explained Hutchinson. Arkansas is the third state allowed to impose work requirements on Medicaid participants.

Little said a new requirement like this assumes people who use Arkansas Works, do it by choice.

An enrollee is considered exempt if he or she is medically frail, exempt from SNAP work requirement, receives TEA assistance, pregnant, caring for an incapacitated person, short-term incapacitated, in substance abuse treatment or full-time education, has a minor child in his/her home or already works at least 80 hours a month. This year, only enrollees age 30 to 49 will be subject to the work mandate, which will be broadened to include 19- to 29-year-olds in 2019. "Move more people into work, and off that reliance on government benefits", said Hutchinson. Arkansas was one of the few Southern states to expand Medicaid under the ACA, a decision that brought hundreds of millions of federal dollars into the state. The new policy would have cut the number of people eligible for Medicaid in the state by about 60,000 people.

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Verma recused herself on CMS' decisions involving IN and Kentucky because she used to consult with those state Medicaid agencies before joining the Trump administration IN 2017.

The Joint Budget Committee on Monday endorsed the budget bill for Medicaid and the state's Medicaid expansion program. Alan Clark, an opponent of the expansion who said he was undecided on whether to support the budget measure.

The state has not, however, won approval yet for a part of the proposal that would change the income requirement for Medicaid to 100% of the federal poverty level instead of 138% of FPL.

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