A lawsuit will be filed today by a public interest group challenging the state process of initially determining whether people are eligible for coverage under the private option expansion of Medicaid, a program that provides health insurance for people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Legal Aid of Arkansas will file the suit based on work by its Economic Justice workgroup.
Note that this is a separate — and long-festering — issue separate from the question of throwing thousands of people off the private option for failure to respond in a 10-day window to an income reverification check that was poorly handled by the state. A separate legal review of that problem — which could cost 50,000 people their insurance by next month — is underway and could also be the subject of a lawsuit.
I’ll have more details when the first suit is filed later today.
UPDATE: Here’s the word from Legal Aid:
Its lawsuit is a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit meant to promote transparency in the “delay-ridden” private option.
The last available data, generated in November 2014, showed over 22,000 Private Option applications pending, with only 69% being processed on time. During a two-week span in May, Legal Aid of Arkansas and the Center for Arkansas Legal Services accepted 100 calls from people suffering from these long wait times.
Also in May, Legal Aid of Arkansas made a Freedom of Information Act request to DHS to get current statistics on the percentage of Private Option applications processed within 45 days and the agency’s plans to address any backlogs. DHS provided no information and refused informal efforts to get the data. After a second request, DHS again failed to provide statistical information. Despite this, Legal Aid of Arkansas obtained emails demonstrating that DHS has the requested information, leaving unanswered the question of why it was not provided.
Legal Aid says it hopes the lawsuit will make the program “transparent, efficient and accountable,” which in turn could make Arkansans “happier, healthier and more productive.”
I’ve asked DHS for a response.
UPDATE: A response from DHS spokesman Amy Webb:
DHS has not yet been served with the lawsuit therefore I won’t be responding specifically to it. What I can say is that DHS has met with Legal Aid and has responded to Legal Aid requests. We’ve also requested Legal Aid send us a list of individuals who they think are eligible but still have pending applications so that we could prioritize them and ensure people who need coverage get it. To date, we have not received any such list.