LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas Department of Human Services officials pushed back against criticism of state Medicaid disenrollment as they shared the latest figures from the program Monday.

DHS officials said the agency had removed 77,0000 from Medicaid rolls since the coronavirus public health emergency ended April 1. DHS was prevented from disenrolling anyone from the program during the emergency.

DHS Sec. Kristi Putnam spoke about the public reaction as people were removed from the state Medicaid roles, questioning the validity of the criticism leveled at her department.

“There is a lot of fabricated outrage and incorrect reporting about Arkansas’ legally required efforts to redetermine eligibility for Medicaid recipients whose coverage was extended due to special rules during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency that have since ended,” Putnam said.

The DHS secretary added that she believes many of the voices complaining about the disenrollments are not from Arkansas and explained her team was following a “detailed plan” to protect resources for the program.

“This outrage is misplaced, it’s coming from out-of-state media and special interest groups, and it distracts from the reality that Arkansas is following a detailed plan developed over more than a year that is both fair and helps protect Medicaid resources for those who truly need it,” Putnam said.

Officials said that prior to the emergency 20,000 to 30,000 cases were typically disenrolled every month. Over 50,000 cases were reviewed by DHS in June and had their Medicaid status renewed.

Those removed from Medicaid often saw changes in their circumstances that made them ineligible for the program, DHS deputy secretary and Medicaid director Janet Mann said.

“Individuals in Arkansas are transitioning off of Medicaid, and the main reason is because they are working, making more money, and have access to health care through their employers or the federal marketplace,” Mann said. “This should be celebrated, not criticized.”

DHS officials pointed to the minimum wage increases and record-low 2.7% unemployment in the state as factors leading to people coming off Medicaid.

DHS figures show that as of July 1, the state has 971,364 enrolled in Medicaid, including 414,722 children, 276,764 on ARHOME and 279,878 other adults.

Those who are not moving to employer-sponsored health plans may enroll at the federal health insurance market place or the state’s health plan website. The state website also has instructions for appealing disenrollment decisions.