For three years, ineligible enrollees have lingered on Arkansas’s Medicaid program, siphoning resources away from the truly needy. But now, thanks to a change in federal law that previously prohibited states from removing even ineligible enrollees, Arkansas is leading the nation in reasserting control over its Medicaid program to protect the most vulnerable.
According to the state’s first report that was recently released, nearly 73,000 individuals were shepherded off of the program in April — the majority of whom are able-bodied adults of working age.
This is welcome news, because Arkansas can now dedicate more Medicaid resources to those truly in need of help, like individuals stuck on waiting lists because of disabilities.
Now, you might think that removing ineligible people from Medicaid would receive bipartisan praise. (After all, a majority of Arkansas voters – and a plurality of independent voters – support removing ineligible recipients as quickly as possible.)
But you would be wrong. Confusingly, many in the state and national media are outraged by the removal of these individuals from the program because, according to their passionate assertions, these individuals got “lost in the process” and were “kicked off” of Medicaid because of “paperwork errors.”
As our recent analysis shows, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
But these naysayers also conveniently overlook another key detail about the renewal process: the Arkansas Department of Human Services has been bending over backwards for months to help enrollees navigate the process.
DHS’s efforts have been exhaustive, to say the least. They have taken every reasonable step to ensure continuity in coverage–and then some. The suggestion that they are instead looking around every corner for someone to “kick out in the cold” is untrue and unserious.
Now, are there individuals who are being removed from Medicaid? Of course. But, as we have noted, less than two percent of them are being removed for “returned mail.” The vast majority are being removed for failing to return anything at all.
And what about those in extremely rare situations who may be accidentally, incorrectly removed? They can re-apply for Medicaid immediately and be re-enrolled through a variety of channels, including by simply walking into a hospital.
Arkansas is rightfully reorienting its Medicaid program back towards the truly needy. We should welcome the news that ineligible able-bodied adults are being removed from Medicaid, not see it as some sort of crisis.
Instead of focusing on rightfully-removed ineligible enrollees, outraged activists should dedicate some of their indignation to those truly in need of Medicaid coverage and services who aren’t getting all of the help they need, like the thousands of individuals on the state’s Medicaid waiting list.