LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A letter from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services dated Aug. 9 lists concerns with the Arkansas Medicaid process by the Department of Human Services.
The letter lists concerns with lengthy wait times at the DHS Medicaid call center, the rate of Medicaid disenrollment, and the length of time needed to process applications. It is addressed to Janet Mann, the Arkansas Deputy Director for Health and Arkansas Medicaid Director for the DHS and is signed by HHS Deputy Director Anne Marie Costello.
Medicaid disenrollment has increased nationally after the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency ended April 1.
While the emergency was in place, nobody could be disenrolled from Medicaid. Now that the emergency is ended, states can review Medicaid subscribers and disenroll those who no longer meet the proper criteria, such as income.
According to DHS, since April 1 the agency has disenrolled 82,279 people from its Medicaid program.
As of Aug. 1st, 915,926 Arkansans are on Medicaid, according to DHS.
The Arkansas Medicaid call center’s 10-minute wait time and 16% call abandonment rate are too high, the letter stated.
“Excessive call center wait times and call abandonment rates may indicate that the state is not meeting the requirements of providing a meaningful opportunity to complete an application or renewal for Medicaid and CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program] telephonically,” the letter states.
The letter continues that other states have hired staff or extended call center hours or made other changes to deal with the increased volume of calls during the current Medicaid disenrollment.
The letter cites DHS’s disenrollment in May of 28% of clients for procedural reasons.
“This high percent raises concerns that eligible individuals, including children, may be losing coverage,” the letter states, and continues, “If there are delays in processing high volumes of renewals, states must monitor that eligibility systems do not terminate coverage on these cases until reviews are complete.”
APPLICATION PROCESSING TIME
Arkansas is processing 5% of its Medicaid Modified Adjusted Gross Income, or MAGI, applications in over 45 days, which is over the time federal regulations allow.
The letter from the agency continues by pointing out training and reference materials state agencies can use to promote faster throughput of applications.
The letter concludes with a reminder that states are expected to review metrics and adjust operations as needed. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would be following up on changes the state is making, it stated.
According to figures supplied by Arkansas DHS through July, 36,751 in the state were disenrolled for not returning the renewal form and 19,149 were disenrolled who did not return requested information.
Household income being above the limit for enrollment led to 9,837 being removed from the roles and 4,143 recipients requested removal from the program. Finally, 2,944 were removed from Medicaid because they did not meet program requirements.
DHS officials said some people will not return their renewal packets because they realize they are no longer eligible.
KARK 4 News reached out to Arkansas DHS for its response to the letter and had not received one when this story was published. If a response is received the story will be updated.