The deadline is 9 p.m. tonight for the first batch of people covered by the new Medicaid work rule to report their monthly eligibility online and the outlook is great or terrible, depending on your point of view.

Andy Davis reported for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today on compliance so far for the  11,000 people who must report by 9 p.m. today that they’ve put in sufficient work — 80 hours in the month — or are otherwise exempt from the rule. The reporting may only be done online, an obstacle for many in a state with poor broadband availability and low Internet usage, particularly among the poor.

At last count, more than 8,000 of the 11,000 who must report today had not reported. So, that’s great if you hope the work rules will shrink the number covered by the Medicaid expansion program and thus reduce taxpayer subsidies of health coverage. Or it’s terrible if you a) depend on the coverage or b) sympathize with those who do.

Failure to report this month doesn’t end coverage. But failure to meet the requirement for three months causes termination of coverage for the rest of the year — or nine months.

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Great quote in Davis’ story from James McDonald, director of a Jonesboro nonprofit trying to help people sign up.

“What we’re getting is people totally confused and people totally scared,” McDonald said. “They don’t want to lose their coverage, but they don’t know how to go about ensuring coverage.”

This is not a ringing endorsement of the design of the Arkansas program. Unless you hate government-subsidized health insurance.

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Perhaps a lawsuit will develop here, as in Kentucky, where a work requirement was struck down in court. Though defenders of the Arkansas plan say it is more smartly devised, it still runs directly counter to the statutory purpose of Medicaid, which is to expand health coverage for the poor. There’s a wealth of precedent against scaling back Medicaid programs once in place