Thousands of Arkansas Works enrollees who were terminated from the program on Monday for failure to comply with the program's work requirement have until 9 p.m. today to attempt to have their health coverage restored.
Those who don't will be locked out of the program for the rest of the year.
Cissy Clark, owner of Clark's Family Pharmacy in Earle, said one customer was attempting to fill a prescription Wednesday when she discovered her coverage had been canceled.
"She said, 'They know I work," Clark recalled Thursday.
"I said, 'You have to report it every month,'" Clark said. "She said, 'Every month?'"
Monday marked the second round of coverage terminations resulting from the work requirement since it took effect in June.
To stay in compliance, enrollees must spend 80 hours a month on work or other approved activities unless they qualify for an exemption.
Enrollees who fail to meet the requirement for three months lose their coverage and are barred from re-enrolling for the rest of the year.
The coverage is terminated at the end of the third month of noncompliance. Enrollees can then have the coverage restored if they report on their hours or an exemption for the third month by the fifth day of the following month.
Today is also the deadline for enrollees to report their work hours or an exemption for August if they experienced trouble using a state website to report their hours or an exemption on Sept. 5, when officials said state computer problems interfered with some individuals' ability to report.
They can request a "good cause exemption" at a Human Services Department office or by emailing AWgoodcauserequest@dhs.arkansas.gov before midnight tonight.
The request should contain the information on the work hours or exemption for August that the enrollee had tried to report, according to the department.
Clark said her customer, after leaving the store to get some cash, ended up paying for one prescription but left without filling another one.
"She said she had a few left at home and would wait on that," Clark said.
She said she told the customer to call her caseworker to find out how to get her coverage restored. If it is, Clark can bill the Arkansas Works plan for the prescriptions and refund the money the customer paid.
"You do worry about patients like that," Clark said.
Arkansas in June became the first state to impose a work requirement on some of its Medicaid recipients.
It is being phased in this year for enrollees age 30-49 and next year for those age 19-29. When it is fully implemented, it is expected to apply to more than half of the people on the program, which covered more than 258,000 people as of Sept. 1.
Arkansas Works covers people who became eligible for Medicaid under the expansion of the program in 2014. The expansion extended coverage to adults with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level. This year the income cutoff was $16,753 a year for an individual or $34,638 for a family of four.
Most enrollees receive the coverage through private health plans, with the Medicaid program paying the premiums.
More than 4,500 enrollees initially lost coverage in the first round of terminations on Sept. 1.
Some of those had their coverage restored, reducing the number who were locked out of the program to 4,353 as of Sept. 9.
As of Sept. 21, an additional 4,662 enrollees had accumulated two months of noncompliance and had not yet met the requirement for September.
Little Rock-based QualChoice Health Insurance initially expected 521 customers to lose coverage on Monday, but that number fell to 500 as some of them came into compliance toward the end of last month, spokesman Terri Parker West said in an email.
She said she expected eight to 10 customers to have their coverage restored this week after reporting their hours or an exemption for September.
A spokesman for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield said last week that about 3,000 of its customers were also expected to lose coverage on Monday.
A representative of St. Louis-based Centene, which also offers Arkansas Works plans, didn't respond to inquiries last week or Thursday about how many of its customers were affected.
Marci Manley, a spokesperson for the Human Services Department, said she didn't have further information on the coverage terminations.
Each of the insurance companies has employees who are trained to report exemptions or work hours on behalf of enrollees.
Many enrollees aren't required to report because information in state records indicates they are working the required number of hours or qualify for an exemption. Others must use the website, access.arkansas.gov, to report their hours or an exemption.
Those eligible for exemptions include enrollees who have children in the home or who are pregnant, full-time students, or in drug or alcohol treatment.
Robin Fletcher, an insurance agent at the Hatcher Agency in Little Rock, said she had about five customers who lost coverage in first round of terminations last month, and none this month.
"It does make it a difficult thing for those individuals who go to the doctor, go to get a prescription," and discover their coverage has been canceled, she said.
In most cases, she said she's been able to get the coverage restored for those who lost it. In others, she said, "they flat out told us they weren't working and they weren't going to work."
At least three or four people who lost coverage since the terminations began have called Harmony Health Clinic in Little Rock, said Justin Wise, the clinic's executive director.
Funded by private donations and state grants, the clinic provides free medical care and prescription drugs to uninsured patients with incomes of up to 200 percent of the poverty level.
"We treat some of the sickest of the sick individuals -- folks that have not been to the doctor, for whatever reason," Wise said. "A lot of the time, by the time they get to our threshold, they are physically falling down on the floor."
A Section on 10/05/2018
Print Headline: Health plan enrollees face deadline today; Thousands failed work requirement