LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As of this week, Arkansas has removed 427,459 patients from Medicaid during its mandated six-month unwinding period.
Disenrollment began on April 1, when the federal declaration of a coronavirus health emergency ended. While the emergency declaration was in place, states were not permitted to remove anyone from their Medicaid provisions.
Department of Human Services officials stated that 53,553 recipients were disenrolled in September, the final month of the unwinding period as mandated by state law.
According to a DHS spokesperson, 298,257 patients were renewed during the last six months.
In response to these new numbers, Democrats in Arkansas are pointing to state Republicans as who is to blame. Meantime, Republicans are pointing to top the Democrat in office, President Joe Biden, as the initiator of all this change.
Chair of the Democratic Party of Arkansas Grant Tennille has a simple message for Republican legislators and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders: You broke it, you fix it.
“It is just about the worst idea of the many bad ideas they’ve had,” he said in a press conference.
In 2021, the state legislature passed a law to give the state a six-month deadline, rather than the typical one year, to determine Medicaid eligibility.
This has been criticized by Democrats as a way for the state to rush through the process.
“Why are they complaining about us being effective and efficient?” Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) asked. “Because they have nothing better to talk about than just to try to spear the Republicans and create this idea that we should be lawless.”
Irvin also noted that the state is simply following a federal law, under Democratic President Joe Biden.
“Why are they [Democrats] upset that we are following President Biden – who is a Democrat – President Biden’s directives?” she asked.
Tennille said it is Republicans who should step up and fix the errors made by the state. He said in the press conference Tuesday that 70% of recipients who had been kicked off were removed because of a process error.
A DHS spokesperson clarified that this is regarding recipients who did not respond to a phone call or letter to verify their eligibility. Irvin also noted that there is retroactive coverage for anyone who has been kicked off Medicaid and should not have been.
It is time for Republicans in the legislature and this governor to step up to the task of fixing what they’ve broken,” Tennille said.
Irvin shared a statement in response to the call to action.
“Well Grant, nobody is in Congress right now that is going to fix that. You have no representation in Congress right now because the Democrat Party has failed policies,” Irvin said. “We are following the law. I can’t believe you’re advocating for us not to follow the law.”
In response to the Democrat’s claims, the governor’s spokesperson Alexa Henning provided a statement.
“President Biden ended the Public Health Emergency requiring ineligible recipients to be removed from Medicaid, Arkansas is complying with state and federal law to remove Medicaid recipients who are no longer eligible for the program and will continue to do so responsibly,” Henning said. “Governor Sanders is focused on implementing bold policies that create opportunity for all Arkansans, not a lifetime of government dependency.”
Gavin Lesnick, spokesperson for Arkansas Department of Human Services also provided a statement.
The Arkansas Democrats’ take on the state’s successful Medicaid unwinding is a gross mischaracterization of the extensive efforts DHS made to ensure beneficiaries were ready and prepared for this process, and it has zero basis in reality. DHS began messaging to beneficiaries more than a year before the end of the Public Health Emergency, and continued this focus throughout the previous six months. Throughout this process, we have reached out to beneficiaries by mail, phone, email, and text, made staff available through a call center dedicated to this effort, partnered with community organizations across the state, placed paid advertisements, engaged physicians, providers, and other stakeholders, and much more. And though we released our comprehensive unwinding plan and publicly updated our progress each month during the unwinding, we didn’t hear a word from Arkansas Democrats until today. They could have helped get the word out; instead, they choose to present a factually inaccurate picture now that the unwinding is done that does nothing but malign the many hardworking frontline staff who truly care about helping eligible beneficiaries maintain coverage.”Gavin Lesnick, Arkansas Department of Human Services