Oct 18, 2023 - News

Arkansas has kicked more than 400,000 people off Medicaid

Illustration of a red cross being torn in half.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Arkansas' six-month Medicaid "unwinding" period after the COVID-19 pandemic is complete, and nearly half a million people have lost their health insurance.

Driving the news: Since April, the state reports it has removed 427,459 people from the Medicaid rolls and renewed coverage for 298,257.

What happened: Medicaid eligibility rules were relaxed during the pandemic, and recipients had their coverage automatically extended during the public health emergency. Normal rules resumed April 1.

The intrigue: About 65% of the closures were because of paperwork problems like recipients not returning renewal forms or other requested information, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

  • The remaining closures are because recipients were no longer eligible for Medicaid, requested to end their benefits or couldn't be found.

What they're saying: Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said in a statement that "thousands of children in Arkansas have unjustly lost access to preventative care, immunizations, and important screenings at a time critical to their healthy development."

  • The group says children's insurance coverage needs to be reinstated as soon as possible.

Zoom in: The unwinding continues to strongly affect the Marshallese community, who are eligible for Medicaid because of the nation's compact of free association with the Marshall Islands, Michelle Pedro, policy director and spokesperson for Springdale-based Arkansas Coalition of the Marshallese, told Axios.

  • Language barriers between the community and DHS staff can complicate the process, as well as a lack of knowledge among staff of Marshallese people's status, Pedro said.

What's next: Beneficiaries who were disenrolled because they didn't turn in necessary information have either 30 or 90 days from the date of closure, depending on their coverage, to provide information and potentially be reinstated, Gavin Lesnick, spokesperson at DHS, told Axios.

  • Those who miss the deadline must reapply.

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