The Arkansas Department of Human Services sent out letters to 132,000 households who, based on verified income information as clients of other DHS services, qualify for health insurance under the so-called “private option” for Medicaid. 55,400 adults mailed a letter back to DHS stating that they wanted to enroll.
This is an astonishing success. DHS sent just one, single-page letter. The average response rate for direct mail campaigns is less than 5 percent.
DHS will mail followup instructions this Thursday to those that responded with instructions on how to enroll. The “private option” uses Medicaid dollars to pay in full for the premiums of private health insurance plans purchased on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. People with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($15,856 for an individual, $32,4999 for a family of four) qualify for the “private option.” The mammoth response seems to indicate that, shockingly, low-income uninsured people are interested in enrolling in no-premium health insurance.
There’s more good news: this process identified children who were eligible for ARKids but were not enrolled. Informed of the option, 2,539 new children are now enrolled in ARKids.
This success story comes on the heels of the Legislative Council‘s recent move to decline to review the federally funded contract for the Arkansas Insurance Department to continue an outreach campaign for the Health Insurance Marketplace. The move puts $4 million in outreach money in limbo.
During the debate, according to the Americans for Prosperity twitter feed, Sen. Gary Stubblefield complained that direct mail wouldn’t be effective because it would just be thrown away. I try to be polite, but this is a moment that demands speaking clearly: that is not just a rubbish argument that has now been exposed as embarrassingly wrong. It is part of an attempt, driven by ideological spite, to keep citizens from getting information about available services that they desperately need.