Arkansas Removes Red-Tape


By Elisabeth Wright Burak, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

The Arkansas Finish Line Coalition was pleased to see Senate Bill 65 signed into law by Governor Mike Beebe Wednesday. It will ensure as many as 20,000 children eligible for ARKids First health insurance aren’t pushed out of coverage because of paperwork errors.


The “Red Tape” bill, sponsored by Senator Jimmy Jeffress and championed in the House by Rep. Uvalde Lindsey, will streamline enrollment and renewal procedures, save Arkansas money and give thousands of Arkansas families the peace of mind that child health insurance is there for them.  Thanks to this bill, the Arkansas Department of Human Services will:

  • Expand paperless renewal options: Right now, families re-enroll their children in ARKids First by submitting a paper form; instead, this bill calls for an “ex parte” renewal process to verify an enrolled child’s ongoing eligibility for ARKids First. This system would use administrative databases (such as income records in workforce services databases) to determine eligibility when families are renewing. This could be easily integrated into the Access Arkansas online system. Parents would be asked to report changes to their income as they happen and would avoid having to submit forms each year to prove eligibility. We’ve learned from our neighbors in Louisiana  and other states that shoring up the re-enrollment process can have real results.  
  • Start Express Lane enrollment. Case workers will be able to use approved applications from other programs-such as free school lunch applications-to approve ARKids First enrollment, so families don’t have to submit the same information many times to apply for related programs.

Arkansas DHS has agreed to start work on these first two items immediately to be implemented by the end of 2011.

Once state funds are available, the state will pave the way to offer a modified version of 12- months of continuous coverage. Under ARKids First B, enrolled children currently keep coverage for a year, regardless of income changes during that year, ensuring that income fluctuations do not disrupt coverage. This bill would transfer children in ARKids First A to ARKids First B for the remainder of the 12 month enrollment period if their income changes.

Even implementing the first two simplification changes would allow Arkansas to meet CHIPRA’s “5 of 8” rule to compete for federal bonus money. Last year Louisiana won $3.5 million and Alabama got $55 million for covering more eligible, uninsured kids.

Of course, the most exciting part of this effort to remove red tape is that the state will be doing a better job of reaching the children they have already committed to covering. With better access to health care, children are able to stay healthy and ready to learn in school.

Elisabeth Wright Burak is a Senior Fellow at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families.