Return to the Latest

Mazes of Red Tape will Cost Young Adults their Coverage under Arkansas’ Medicaid Work Requirements

Imagine: You’re a student in Arkansas and you work in a service job that’s a good fit for you, but your hours are unpredictable. You rely on Medicaid for your health coverage. When you’re not at work, you balance family obligations as well as a full load of assignments and projects from your college courses. In the little free time you have left, your state government is about to require you to navigate a complicated and burdensome verification process to prove that you work an arbitrary number of hours in order to continue to receive the Medicaid “Arkansas Works” health coverage that you already have. A new PBS feature out this week illustrates just how devastating these requirements are for thousands of folks being forced to comply. In January, that will become the reality for thousands of young Arkansans.

Medicaid work requirements put many young people at risk of losing health coverage, not because they aren’t working, but because it is too difficult to prove their employment through the unreliable online system. The process can take hours and requires multi-stages to successfully complete. Since the implementation of work requirements in Arkansas this past summer, more than 8,400 people ages 30-49 have already lost their Medicaid coverage. Thousands more young adults stand to lose coverage in January when these requirements take effect for folks ages 19-29. One additional hurdle: evidence shows that many folks aren’t even aware that these new rules exist, or that they are at risk of losing coverage.  

Arkansas is one of the first states to actually implement these so-called “work requirements,” but many states are threatening to follow in their footsteps, with similarly burdensome and confusing reporting requirements. With young adults making up of 20 percent of all Medicaid enrollees, that means a lot of young people stand to lose their health coverage if their manager doesn’t give them enough hours in a given month, if they don’t have access to reliable internet, or a number of other reasons.

The truth is that the ability to report work hours on a monthly basis assumes a lot of privilege – privilege that many Medicaid enrollees don’t have. For an individual adult to be eligible for Arkansas Works, they must earn no more than $16,673 per year. Work requirements can only be submitted online which creates significant challenges for those without computers or access to high-speed internet. And if you don’t have a car or reliable transportation, getting to a local library every month to complete the verification process may prove to be even more difficult.

Here’s just a few of the twists and turns that an Arkansas Medicaid enrollee need to navigate every month to prove to the state that they should keep their health coverage:

Research has shown that Medicaid work requirements do not increase employment in the long run. They also don’t save taxpayers money. In fact, the administrative burden of monitoring and verifying work requirements costs taxpayers millions of dollars, reducing any savings gained by reducing beneficiaries. In short, Medicaid work requirements simply make it harder for low-income people to get the health care they need.