First Round of Arkansas 2019 Medicaid Data Shows More Coverage Losses Are on the Way

Last week, the state of Arkansas released its latest round of data on implementation of its Medicaid work reporting requirement – the first in the country to be implemented. As readers of SayAhhh! know, over 18,000 lost coverage in 2018 as a result of not complying with the new reporting rules. And the policy is clearly failing to achieve its purported goal – incentivizing work – with less than 1% of those subject to the new policy newly reporting work or community engagement activities.

Starting January 1, Arkansas is phasing in 19-29 year-old young adults to the new work reporting requirements. The clock has been reset at the beginning of the year and since there is a “three strikes you’re out policy” no one will be cut off until the end of March. Unfortunately, the state is not breaking down the data by age so it is hard to tell what is happening with the new young adult group. In any event, the number of Medicaid beneficiaries who now have one strike in January is very high – 8,895.

This number will go down, one assumes, over the next few months but still suggests that thousands of people will lose coverage again later this year – unless a federal judge acts to stop the waiver. Oral arguments in the lawsuit are now set for March 14 so a decision is likely to come out by the end of March. The case is being heard by the same judge who is presiding over the Kentucky case where the Medicaid waiver has been halted from proceeding.

Joan Alker is the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families and a Research Professor at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy.