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What’s Next for Arkansas’s Work Requirement

On Thursday, we received news that a district judge in Washington, D.C., had struck down the work requirement in Arkansas Works Medicaid Program.

Arkansas’s work requirement has put us on the leading edge nationally. We were the first state to implement the waiver. Many states have followed our lead, and waiver requests are in the pipeline.

Often when you lead on an issue, you have to overcome many obstacles because no one else has been there before. This court decision is one of those obstacles.

The judge’s ruling made a couple of points that I want to emphasize.

First, he did not strike down the work requirement on our Medicaid program based upon the reporting requirements.  

This is because he had a fundamental disagreement with the concept of a work requirement. His view is that Medicaid is an entitlement program, and you cannot place additional requirements that may lead to a loss of coverage.

Judge Boasberg is wrong, and I am urging the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services to appeal the ruling. Today, I spoke with Eric Hargan, the deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and encouraged him to seek an expedited appeal of this decision. Secretary Hargan assured me that the Trump administration is fully committed to support Arkansas on this initiative.

Second, the judge noted that this could just be a pause. I hope he is correct on that point, and I remain fully committed to a work requirement. We are in this for the long haul.

President Trump and his administration remain committed as well to a work requirement.

This requirement applies to those who receive the public benefit and who are able-bodied so they will have the best opportunity to work, to receive training, and to have employment opportunities.

Since last June, more 12,000 Arkansans have been referred to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services as a result of the work requirement notice and have found employment.

And in the last few years, 79,000 have moved off the rolls because they have found a job and an income. Of those who were subject to the work requirement, 88 percent have stayed in compliance.

Although we have seen these successes, the judge’s ruling will require us to make adjustments.

Since he has vacated the waiver amendment for the work requirement, DHS has shut down the online portal, and no one will lose coverage because of a failure to report.

And the original Arkansas Works waiver is now in place. Work referrals will continue, and training and outreach will proceed.

The DHS appropriation should not be in jeopardy. Legislators who are voting on that agree that the work requirement is a good thing.

If we want to continue the fight for a work requirement, the best course is to appeal.

If not, we lose the opportunity to lead nationally in this effort to provide training and work opportunities for those on Medicaid.

I am proud to be governor of a state where its residents are compassionate and want to help their fellow Arkansans. But we also understand that compassion requires giving others the opportunity to work, to pay their own way, and to climb out of poverty.

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