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70,000 Arkansans determined ineligible for Medicaid

The Arkansas Department of Human Services reported their first month of redeterminations in a six-month effort to "unwind the Medicaid rolls."

ARKANSAS, USA — The Arkansas Department of Human Services reported their first month of redeterminations in a six-month effort to "unwind the Medicaid rolls." 

The Public Health Emergency (PHE) provided continuous coverage for Arkansans through the pandemic. According to their press release, "This requirement during the PHE prevented DHS from removing most ineligible individuals from Medicaid, but normal eligibility rules resumed on April 1." The agency is now focusing on redetermination to comply with normal eligibility rules.

"Essentially, once the public health emergency was declared, you couldn't lose Medicaid. The only reasons you could lose it were if you moved out of state, if you were incarcerated, if you died, or if you requested it," said Chief of Communications Gavin Lesnick. "What we as an agency have to do is re-determine the eligibility of all the folks who stayed on Medicaid during these past three years."

Their press release states, "At the end of April, 72,802* cases were closed, including 44,667 beneficiaries whose coverage had previously been extended because of the special eligibility rules during the PHE. The other 28,135 cases were closed as part of normal operations. This compares to approximately 25,000 disenrollments each month in 2018 and 2019 prior to the pandemic. Among all cases due in April, 61,236 beneficiaries had their coverage renewed after their eligibility was confirmed under normal eligibility rules."

In their press release, the DHS explains that 230,000 beneficiaries joined the program during the COVID-19 pandemic saying, "DHS is moving swiftly to disenroll individuals who are no longer eligible to ensure that Medicaid resources go to beneficiaries who truly need them, and this will continue in the coming months as the unwinding progresses." 

"This is an unprecedented event, renewing eligibility for all Medicaid beneficiaries on the state. That's never been done before, in such a condensed timeline," Trevor Hawkins with Legal Aid of Arkansas said.

Hawkins has assisted beneficiaries during this period of redetermination and says there's a lot of confusion.

“A lot of the people that have been coming to us directly, they've been saying they never got those requests. And so I worry about how many people have fallen into that bucket," Hawkins stated. "This notice system that they're using was a contract for $340 million to develop this system. And it's, it's been a mess. People just, we've not really had anyone call us and know exactly what's going on, based on the notices."

Hawkins suggested Arkansans make sure their contact information is up to date with DHS. With over 70,000 already determined as ineligible, Hawkins is concerned but says there's still more one can do.

"You have appeal rights. You can file an appeal and that notice is supposed to tell you how to do so. And the agency is supposed to conduct an administrative hearing and make a decision within 90 days on that appeal," Hawkins explained.

For anyone looking for free legal aid, you can contact Legal Aid of Arkansas' helpline 1-800-952-9243 or visit their website.

In the DHS press release, they state:

Medicaid beneficiaries who believe they have been disenrolled in error may appeal the determination. If individuals were disenrolled because they did not respond or provide requested information, they can provide the information now to have their coverage reinstated. Additional information is available at ar.gov/renew

Individuals who no longer qualify for Medicaid can access health care through other avenues, including employer-based insurance or on the federal health care marketplace. Information on marketplace plans is available at healthcare.gov.

DHS has been working for more than a year to prepare for the end of the PHE. These efforts have included making calls to recipients, meeting with numerous providers, partners, and stakeholder groups across the state, conducting awareness campaigns that point recipients and partners to online toolkits with additional information, engaging paid advertising, and more. We also added staff to help handle increased renewals and answer questions. 

Beneficiaries who need assistance can visit ar.gov/accessanywhere, or they can call 855-372-1084.

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