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story.lead_photo.caption Seema Verma, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, signs a federal waiver allowing Arkansas to implement a work requirement on many of the recipients of the state’s private-option Medicaid expansion program on Monday, March 5, 2018. - Photo by John Moritz

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday announced the approval of a federal waiver allowing Arkansas to implement a work requirement on many of the recipients of the state’s private-option Medicaid expansion program.

Hours later, a legislative panel advanced the Medicaid budget bill.

Arkansas has sought approval for such a waiver for around a year. The Trump administration in January said it would allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid. It has already approved proposals from Kentucky and Indiana.

However, Hutchinson predicted the state would be the first to implement a work requirement because of the preparations done as the state sought approval from the federal government.

More than 285,000 people are on the Arkansas program, which was created as an alternative to expanding traditional Medicaid under the federal health law.

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The governor, who was joined by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, noted Monday that the waiver does not include a reduction of “Medicaid coverage down to 100 percent of the federal poverty level.” That proposal would have moved 60,000 people off the program.

The federal poverty line this year is $12,140 for a single person or $25,100 for a family of four.

“The administrator has agreed to continue to work with us on that, but we did not want to wait for a full analysis of the entire waiver,” Hutchinson said.

He added that the work requirement waiver is “not about punishing anyone.”

“It’s about giving people the opportunity to work. It’s to give them training that they need. It’s to help them move out of poverty and up the economic ladder,” Hutchinson said.

The plan will affect about 39,000 non-disabled, childless adults on the plan who are 19 to 49 years old. They would be required to work or participate in other activities such as volunteering or vocational training for 20 hours a week.

Arkansas' proposal will not affect those on its traditional Medicaid program.

The work requirement's approval was seen as key to winning support for reauthorizing the Medicaid expansion by state lawmakers in Arkansas. The state budget bill for Medicaid and the expansion require three-fourths support in both chambers of the Legislature, and vacancies in the Arkansas Senate have left supporters shy of the votes they'll need.

"It certainly makes it more palatable," said Republican Sen. Alan Clark, an opponent of the expansion who said he was undecided on whether to support the budget measure. "Still overall I'm not a fan of the program, but I think they've made some huge improvements."

Hours after the work requirement was approved, the state's Joint Budget Committee endorsed the budget bill for Medicaid and the state's Medicaid expansion program. The bill now heads to the state Senate for a vote.

In an emailed statement, the six Republicans that make up Arkansas' congressional delegation praising the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Encouraging people who can work to find employment is a common-sense policy with a track record of success. It not only focuses Medicaid dollars on those who need it most; it also helps people get back into the workforce and move up the income ladder," they wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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  • titleist10
    March 5, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.

    Fantastic! If they want steak make em get a job and pay taxes like the rest of us-no more laying around all day and doing drugs not to include the elderly/disabled

  • Razorbacks901
    March 5, 2018 at 3:39 p.m.

    I would like to include food stamps with this. I see people that get so much government money to the point that they mess up their money if they get a job!! Able body people should work to get the stamps. Single able body men get kicked off stamps automatically.

  • JakeTidmore
    March 5, 2018 at 5:48 p.m.

    I hate the BS about poor folks having steaks and such. No stats to back it up - just hateful rhetoric and hypocrisy. Pseudo-christianity at its awfullest.

    The real hypocrisy is all these fat cat politicians on the public tit who get freebie meals from lobbyists. Now that's where you'll find the steaks and the booze and the payola. Corporate and legislative welfare recipients are the real big drain. Go to their parking lot and see the big fancy SUVs and cars they drive. On your money.
    But....what the hey...some fools always want to throw gasoline on the poor folks and light a match and chortle at the flames they cause. Real honest Christian types, right?? Not an ounce of shame in their self-righteous bodies. Just smug, slime-tossing jerkwads wanting to show their hindquarters like some slobbering, chest-beating gorilla.
    Sigh....there's worse folks in the lower levels of Hell. It's just a shame that those on the next level up think that makes them so much better than the rest of us.

    March 5, 2018 at 7:03 p.m.

    Bless you JakeTidmore,
    Taking care of the Poor and Others that can not help themselves is not where the Money is going, The Money is going for Huge Tax Cuts for the Super Rich, And the Super Costly War Machines that are not needed or wanted by Our Military, Our Poor and Sickly People are being Sacrificed by Rich, Religious People that should know Better.

  • NoUserName
    March 5, 2018 at 7:37 p.m.

    Oh please. This is for able-bodied adults WITHOUT dependents. To think there aren't abuses is just as idiotic and thinking everybody in the program is a leech. This is a good step. Incidentally, Jake, although it is an isolated incident, it DOES happen: ww w.snopes.c om/photos/signs/receipt.asp
    And that guy was busted for re-selling what he bought. Which ALSO happens. Obviously. But then again, I'm just a poor-hating pseudo-christian, right?

  • HM2
    March 5, 2018 at 8:02 p.m.

    I say that if the so called "POOR" get anything from taxpayer funds they need to work for it. Can't find a job you say? no problem, we'
    ll put you to work picking up trash, painting park benches, we can find work for you. four hours a day five or six days a week, on your off time you can look for a job.

  • GeneralMac
    March 5, 2018 at 8:42 p.m.

    Beartrap919 is the poster boy for liberals who twist/lie in order to prove a point.

    In his rant Beartrap uses the words "poor"..." sickly"
    Beartrap .......what part of " able bodied,childless between 19-49"..cant your simple mind comprehend ?

    An d even then, those same able bodied people CAN get it if they volunteer or are getting training.

  • GeneralMac
    March 5, 2018 at 8:52 p.m.

    Food stamps is a huge expense that is paid out of the Farm Bill.

    Farm subsidies is a TINY percent of the expenditures under the Farm Bill yet the...

    dollar amount $$$

    of every farmer receiving any subsidy is made PUBLIC.

    Make the names, addresses, and $$$$$$$$$$ amounts of food stamp receivers PUBLIC also.

    Good for the goose,good for the gander.

  • Jfish
    March 5, 2018 at 10:18 p.m.

    While I do agree with Jake, most of these folks are not eating steaks, however, they should have to do something. HM2 is correct, picking up litter along our roadways would be a good start. Just look at how the number of people collecting disability in recent years has risen and the number of able-bodied homeless people now occupying every major intersection in West Little Rock.

  • PopMom
    March 6, 2018 at 7:20 a.m.

    I have no problem making able bodied people work for the benefits. There are documented cases of people abusing the system. I wonder if there should be an exception for people who are caretakers for their parents or a handicapped relative? I also pray that those who judge "able-bodied" know what they are doing. I do agree with Jake Tidmore that the Republicans seem more focused on poor people taking advantage of the system while they overlook rich people taking advantage. So many of our taxpayer dollars go to government contracts for the rich. Amazon probably is going to get a waiver on state taxes wherever they locate. The buzz is that Bezos is leaning to northern Virginia or D.C. I expect it will be northern Virginia. Some of the Maryland politicians have started questioning whether we should be passing out tax exemptions to billionaires. (Nothing derogatory can be written about Bezos in the Washington Post; he is now the owner.) Heck, the Arkansas taxpayers footed the bill for a steel mill for the Koch brothers, and everybody is all excited about able bodied Goober getting health insurance.