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Lawsuit filed over Arkansas Medicaid work requirement

The federal lawsuit was filed by three advocacy groups on behalf of the residents over the requirement, which the state began enforcing in June. (MGN Photo)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Three people on Arkansas' expanded Medicaid program are suing to prevent the state from enforcing its new requirement that would drop coverage for them and thousands of others if they don't work.

The federal lawsuit was filed in Washington Tuesday by three advocacy groups on behalf of the residents over the requirement, which the state began enforcing in June. The state said Tuesday more than 5,400 people on the expansion program didn't meet a requirement that they report at least 80 hours of work each month in June and July and will lose coverage if they don't meet the requirement this month.

Arkansas was the first state to implement a Medicaid work requirement. A federal judge in June blocked Kentucky from enforcing its Medicaid work requirement.

Gov. Asa Hutcinson said in a statement that the lawsuit aims to "undermine our efforts to bring Arkansans back into the workforce, increase worker training, and to offer improved economic prospects for those who desire to be less dependent on the government."

“Our goal is to assist those in compliance so that their healthcare coverage continues; however, we must have an accountable system that does not leave thousands of able-bodied recipients on the Medicaid rolls who may not qualify for a whole host of reasons," the statement says, in part.

The Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families also released a statement Wednesday, saying in part: "[The policy] has been touted as a way to ensure Arkansans are working, but in reality it only creates costly bureaucratic red tape and new barriers to coverage. As we’ve pointed out in the past, most enrollees are already working or will be exempt from the requirement. It unnecessarily puts people at risk of accidentally losing their insurance simply because they do not understand the complicated reporting process, or they cannot report online through the required portal because they lack internet access."

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