Gov. Asa Hutchinson called in the press today to defend his work rule for Medicaid and to say, essentially, that loss of coverage was on those who lost it, not the state.
He issued a news release detailing the efforts the state had made to reach out to people required to report work to continue health coverage under the Medicaid expansion.
DHS Director Cindy Gillespie and Workforce director Darryl Bassett touted aids the state offered people to move into jobs or better jobs and said they’d heard stories of improvement among those seeking to meet the requirement, which must be reported only by computer. DHS release here. Said the governor:
“While many fully complied by taking advantage of work opportunities under the work requirement, there were some that either found work, moved onto other insurance, or moved out of state without notifying DHS,” said Governor Hutchinson. “Some simply chose not to comply. Those are the ones who will lose their Arkansas Works coverage for the remainder of 2018.
“Personal responsibility is important. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure those who qualify for the program keep their coverage, but it is equally important that we make sure those who no longer qualify are removed,” added the Governor. “Arkansas Works is not a fee for service program, which means taxpayers are paying health insurance premiums for all enrollees every month, averaging roughly $570 a month, per person. This work requirement not only provides Arkansans with an opportunity to gain employment and move up the economic ladder, but also allows the state to concentrate our limited resources on those who need it most.
“The assumption of personal responsibility that is underlying this policy doesn’t necessarily take into consideration the challenges people are facing on a daily basis,” said Jessica Greene, a health policy professor.
Despite the state outreach, many don’t know about the work rule. Many don’t have computer access or means to reach a computer. Many are trying to work, but have varying degrees of success at achieving the 80 hours necessary per month.
The state is being sued for imposing work rules on a program designed to help poor people get medical coverage. A similar rule has been struck down in Kentucky.
So far this year, 4,353 people who had coverage have lost it and can’t attempt to renew it until next year, no matter how hard they may work. 5,000 more have been out of compliance for two months. More than 6,000 have been out of compliance for a month. Three months of non-compliance causes loss of Medicaid. Some have been removed from the rolls because of other reasons, such as
Hutchinson emphasized the positive, more than 40,000 remaining eligible because of jobs, exemptions or other reasons. But the state figures note that only 1,200 actually satisfied the reporting requirement and a total of 16,000 have lost or in peril of losing coverage for lack of reporting.
Hutchinson’s news conference followed one by Democratic challenger Jared Henderson criticizing the state’s handling of the issue. He said Hutchinson is more interested in reducing spending on Medicaid.
Henderson said Arkansas had led the country on improving health coverage, but Hutchinson had now created a new bureaucracy and a burdensome computer requirement to get between poor people and health care.
Here’s Henderson’s full release:
Jared Henderson, Democratic candidate for governor, was joined by three medical professionals at a press conference Wednesday afternoon to speak on the horrible impacts of Governor Hutchinson’s Medicaid internet reporting requirement. More than 4,300 Arkansans will lose healthcare for failure to report in the first three consecutive months of the reporting requirement that only allows Arkansans to report through a part-time website in a state that ranks 49th in internet connectivity.
The first guest, licensed nurse practitioner Dr. Mary Garnica, discussed her experience providing health services to Medicaid recipients, highlighting how vital it was to ensuring that Arkansans lived out a healthy, and productive, lifestyle.
Executive Director Luke Kramer of The STARR Coalition, a national nonprofit that aims to increase partnerships among stakeholders in the areas mental health, spoke on the digital divide Governor Hutchinson’s program fails to recognize. Mr. Kramer also emphasized that mental health centers across the state are mandated to provide care regardless of whether individuals have health insurance, and the uncompensated costs that rise from stripping people off Medicaid rolls is damaging the livelihood of these centers across the state.
Dr. Tonya Martin-Dunlap, a breast surgical oncologist, discussed how her private practice has seen the tragedies associated with lack of access to healthcare. Dr. Martin-Dunlap highlighted the number of patients who came into her office once finally receiving health care through Medicaid expansion, but the delay in addressing the symptoms prior resulted in more severe diagnoses and more costly treatment. Additionally, Dr. Martin-Dunlap shared the story of a patient who was notified recently that they needed to be treated for breast cancer, but in the middle of the treatment process they were kicked off Medicaid and are unable to afford it otherwise. Dr. Martin-Dunlap says her office is still trying to figure out how the patient will receive care now.
Henderson, emphasizing the critical importance of the Medicaid expansion program, said that these are crucial examples of what is at stake when it comes to Hutchinson’s irresponsible Medicaid internet reporting requirement.
“My work throughout rural communities in Arkansas has provided the insight into just how poorly planned Governor Hutchinson’s Medicaid internet requirement really is,” Henderson said. “We are a state that ranks 49th in internet connectivity, and the idea that online would be the only avenue for individuals to report means that this is either simply bad policy or that it is an intentional effort to kick people off of Medicaid.”
“Governor Hutchinson was negligent in considering the consequences of this Medicaid internet reporting policy. Under my leadership, our state will champion providing quality health insurance to our most vulnerable Arkansans while ensuring we have jobs that provide good benefits that keep them from needing these government-provided necessities in the first place,” Henderson added.