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Arkansas’s Work and Community Engagement Requirement Update

On June 1, Arkansas became the first state to implement a work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients who are of working age with no dependents at home. The goal is to identify and provide worker training to those who need employment and to improve their opportunity to get a good-paying job.

Since the reporting period opened, we have worked diligently to make sure those subject to the work requirement had the information they needed to show they are working or to seek an exemption.

Our Department of Human Services has sent 136,000 letters and emails, and made more than 150,000 phone calls.

They posted the message on social media sites, sent thousands of text messages and even knocked on doors to spread the information.

DHS staff members conducted more than thirty webinars, and offered other training and information sessions for advocacy groups. They distributed thousands of educational postcards in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.

In addition, DHS created a way help those without computers or internet access to report in. Registered reporters were allowed to complete the process for beneficiaries by telephone.

And every DHS county office in the state also has staff on hand to assist those who need it.

More than 43,600 enrollees complied with the requirement. 

Despite all this effort, about 4,300 able-bodied Arkansans did not meet the state’s work requirements, which means they will lose the coverage for the remainder of the year.

There are a couple of things important to note about that number.

First, each of those people had three months to contact the state. We didn’t close cases because someone didn’t contact DHS the first month.

And the number doesn’t necessarily represent 4,300 people who are suddenly without insurance coverage. It could mean that for any number of reasons, some of the people in that number no longer needed the insurance. They may have found work, moved onto a spouse’s insurance, or moved out of state without notifying DHS. Some simply chose not to comply.

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. This not only allows the state to concentrate its limited resources on those who need it the most, but the work requirement is geared toward helping Arkansans find a job and move up the economic ladder.

In fact, we have already heard success stories about people who have taken the encouragement and decided to earn their GED and start vocational school. Through assistance from the Department of Workforce Services, some have started nursing school and made other decisions about picking a career.

This work and community engagement requirement reflects a balance of important Arkansas values such as compassion, work and responsibility.

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