DHS Returning Medicaid Rolls to Pre-Pandemic Levels
LITTLE ROCK – One of the ongoing developments in state government over the past six months has been the efforts of the Human Services Department to reduce the number of people on Medicaid.
The goal is to return the health coverage program to levels more closely resembling those prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic the federal government issued emergency regulations that prohibit the state from dropping people on Medicaid, regardless of whether or not their financial circumstances changed.
In April, when the federal government announced the expiration of its emergency orders, the Arkansas Medicaid program was able to restore its traditional criteria for determining whether or not a family was eligible to receive services.
Since then the Department has been conducting an extensive process to redetermine the eligibility of all people on Medicaid. Department officials are calling this a period of “unwinding.” Standards for determining eligibility in normal times are also set by the federal government.
In the six months since Arkansas has been “unwinding” its Medicaid rolls, the department has determined that 427,459 people are no longer eligible for services.
The Arkansas Secretary of Human Services said that she was proud of the department’s staff who did the work of “unwinding” the Medicaid rolls, because it is important that the program has the resources to serve the people who truly need health coverage.
If you believe the department mistakenly dropped you from Medicaid, you can get information about re-applying at this website address: ar.gov/cover
You also can call 855-372-1084 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, or go to your local DHS office.
In August, enrollment in Arkansas Medicaid had decreased to 915,926 people. That compares to pre-pandemic levels, such as in March, 2020, when enrollment was 921,066 people.
Supreme Court Rules on LEARNS Act
Since the legislature adjourned its regular session in April, another ongoing issue has been the legal battle over the LEARNS Act. It is a broad reform of public schools proposed by the governor and enacted by the legislature that was challenged in the courts soon after it was signed.
The state Supreme Court, in a 6-to-1 ruling, dismissed the challenges of plaintiffs who argued that the legislature had failed to properly vote on the act’s emergency clause.
The act creates Education Freedom Accounts that provide funding to families who send eligible students to private schools. This year 4,795 students in 94 schools are benefiting from the program.
Most of the families will receive $6,672, although families of 628 students who had been getting Succeed Scholarships will receive $7,413.
According to a report to legislators from the Education Secretary, 59 percent of the students live in central Arkansas and 16 percent live in northwest Arkansas.
Students with a disability make up 44 percent and first-time kindergarteners make up 31 percent of the recipients.
The Education Department received 5,660 applications. The reason for most of the rejected applications was lack of documentation or clarification. Education officials estimate that the state will distribute $32.5 million this school year to families of eligible students.