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Hundreds of thousands of Arkansans could be at risk of losing Medicaid benefits

More than 400,000 Medicaid recipients had their coverage extended throughout the pandemic but that could be coming to an end.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — If you get your health care coverage from Medicaid, your coverage could be at risk due to changes.

For the first time in three years, states will start checking eligibility for anyone enrolled in Medicaid. States stopped checking eligibility during the pandemic because the federal government wouldn’t let states kick anyone off the program.

Starting April 1st the federal government will allow states to remove people who are not eligible. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says a little more than one million Arkansans are currently enrolled in Medicaid.

“We have a little over 400,000 Medicaid beneficiaries whose benefits have been extended because of the public health emergency. If that change in rules wasn't in place, they might have been disenrolled,” said Gavin Lesnick with the DHS.

Lesnick says they will be redetermining whether those people are still eligible. He says a letter began going out to recipients in February that will continue going out repeatedly over the next few months. He says that coverage will continue for those who still meet the Medicaid requirement.

“There will be some folks who have had a change in their income or a change in their circumstances, and no longer qualify for Medicaid. So part of this process will be moving them off Medicaid and finding other places for them to get health care coverage, whether that's an employer-sponsored plan, or plan through the federal marketplace,” he said.

Jaden Atkins is a staff attorney with the economic justice workgroup for Legal Aid of Arkansas. She and her co-workers are helping get the word out that this is happening, and they are here to help. She suspects this change is going to be a surprise to a lot of people.

“Some people have probably been receiving some notices in the mail in the last two months, asking them to provide information, but they may not understand that their failure to provide that information, or all of the information that DHS thinks they need to provide to answer is going to result in them getting cut off from benefits,” said Atkins.

DHS encourages Medicaid recipients to check their mail and visit their website or to update their addresses and renew their benefits. If you have questions, you can call DHS at 1-844-872-2660.

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