Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has issued a final report on Arkansas’s law to add a work rule to qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage.
Verdict: It was a failure. It cost many people their health coverage and it didn’t encourage more employment.
More than 18,000 people lost coverage and another 6,000 were saved at the last minute by a federal court ruling that the law was unconstitutional. The decision is on appeal. A news release from the family lobby said, however:
Until the case is heard, the work reporting requirement is not active. The state will not automatically reenroll those who lost coverage due to non-compliance with the work-reporting requirement, however, as it does not view the ruling as requiring it to do so.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families finds that the work reporting requirement did not achieve it’s stated purpose: getting more Arkansans to work. In fact, employment rates declined for adults who lost their health insurance. Arkansas’s expansion of Medicaid in 2013 acknowledged that, when people are healthy, they are more able to work. Taking away health insurance, or threatening to, will not increase employment rates among low-income adults.
“Any work requirement will have the unintended consequence of taking coverage away from people who are already working or who should be exempt due to illness, disability or other factors,” said Loretta Alexander, health policy director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. “The state would dramatically improve its future by shifting its focus from taking away services that help Arkansans improve themselves to strengthening job training and employment assistance programs.”
In its brief, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families recommends Arkansas abandon the work reporting requirement policy and look for ways to restore Medicaid coverage to those who lost it.
In the meantime, Arkansas Advocates urges anyone who receives free or low-cost health insurance through Arkansas Works to check their enrollment status and to reapply if they lost coverage due to the work reporting requirement.