This post originally appeared in POLITICO Pulse on May 9, 2023
New data from Arkansas shows Medicaid unwinding is going how state officials had hoped — and many consumer advocates had feared.
Nearly 45,000 Arkansans who had remained on Medicaid because of pandemic protections had their coverage terminated in April. Eighty-five percent lost their insurance for procedural reasons — because they failed to return their renewal forms or other requested information, or because the state couldn’t locate them — according to data published by the state Department of Human Services.
The announcement comes as states begin to comb through their Medicaid rolls for the first time in three years. In exchange for additional money, the federal government prohibited states from removing anyone from the insurance program due to changes in eligibility. Estimates suggest that as many as 15 million people, including 3.5 million children, could be removed from Medicaid because of this so-called unwinding.
National health care experts have been watching Arkansas closely for two reasons. First, they say the state is moving much faster than everyone else. It’s the only state that plans to conduct Medicaid redeterminations for pandemic holdovers in half the time the Biden administration has recommended.
Second, they say the state has a past when it comes to kicking eligible people off Medicaid. More than 18,000 low-income adults had their Medicaid coverage terminated in 2018 for failing to show proof they were meeting the state’s new work-requirement rules. Many complained that a confusing system made it difficult to comply with the rules.
A 2019 study found that a lack of awareness and confusion about the new rule led to a wave of terminations, despite that 95 percent of an estimated 140,000 affected people should have remained covered.