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Deadline for reporting work or exemptions looms for Arkansas Works enrollees

A letter notifying an Arkansas Works beneficiary of the new state work requirements for people on the Medicaid expansion plan. (Photo: Department of Human Services)

As many as 8,000 Arkansans are at risk of being non-compliant with the state's new Medicaid expansion work requirement, with a 9:00 PM deadline looming for Arkansas Works enrollees to report work details or exemptions to the state, according to the Department of Human Services.

DHS has mailed letters, blasted the message on social media, made phone calls and dispersed educational material to outreach organizations to help notify the thousands of Arkansans with healthcare plans through Arkansas Works - the state's version of Medicaid expansion.

"We've been doing everything we can to get in touch with folks, let them know that - hey - we want to hear from you, please report your activities, get that month of compliance under your belt or let us know if there's an exemption," said Marci Manley, deputy communications director for the Department of Human Services.

As of last week, DHS shows that they've been able to determine that 17,613 clients were exempt from the new Arkansas Works work requirement for the month of June. Manley said the agency is gradually enrolling clients in the work requirement, on a monthly basis and based on policy renewals.

But DHS shows that of the more than 26,000 Arkansans required to prove work hours, volunteer service or proof they're working toward finding work - just 371 clients have shown they are compliant for June. According to DHS - 8,534 didn't show an exemption in the system, so they would be expected to report activities to meet the work requirement or prove a state approved exemption to the rule.

"Some people just don't have the technology," said Marquita Little, health policy analyst for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Little said she's concerned that Arkansas Works clients may not be able to file their required hours because they don't have easy access to a computer or internet access. The work requirement requires clients to create a profile online with the state and log the hours through a state web portal.

"For the people who may have internet access, they don't understand this new cumbersome I.T. system that they have to use," said Little.

In May, the state authorized people to be "helpers", to assist Arkansas Works clients - including insurance providers with plans available on through the state's Medicaid expansion program.

Clients can call Qualchoice, Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Centene insurance companies to receive assistance in reporting their work details or exemptions.

And while the deadline to report is tonight, Manley said it would take three months of non-compliance to lose healthcare benefits.

"It's not an immediate closure on their account because they had one month of non-compliance," said Manley.

"But we do want people to take it seriously that these deadlines are there. We need you to report your activities, we want you to learn the system and learn what you need to do and get started on connecting yourself to some of those activities that really might benefit you and your family."

If you are part of the group of people between the ages of 30 - 49 that are now subject to the state's work requirement, you need to visit access.arkansas.gov to get started. You can watch this YouTube video to help assist you in setting up your account.

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