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Nearly 69,000 Arkansans lost Medicaid eligibility in May, DHS report says

by Michael R. Wickline | June 8, 2023 at 5:31 p.m.
FILE — The Arkansas Department of Human Services at Donaghey Plaza in Little Rock is shown in this 2019 file photo.

The cases of nearly 69,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Arkansas were closed in May because they either didn’t return requested information necessary to determine their eligibility or are no longer eligible for Medicaid, the Arkansas Department of Human Services reported Thursday.

The closed cases include 43,385 Medicaid beneficiaries whose coverage had been extended previously because of the special eligibility rules during the federal public health emergency and 25,453 other Medicaid beneficiaries whose coverage was closed as part of normal operations, according to the department.

The figures reflect the second month of Medicaid eligibility re-determinations as part of the department’s six-month campaign to unwind Arkansas’ Medicaid rolls following the end of the continuous coverage requirement that was in effect during the federal government’s public health emergency.

In contrast, between 20,000 and 30,000 ineligible Medicaid beneficiaries were dis-enrolled each month during 2018 and 2019 prior to the covid-19 pandemic, according to the department.

Among all cases due in May, 39,848 Medicaid beneficiaries had their coverage renewed after their eligibility was confirmed by the department under the normal eligibility rules, the department said.

The state’s total Medicaid enrollment totaled 1.02 million as of June 1, compared to 1.06 million as of May 1, Department of Human Services spokesman Gavin Lesnick said Thursday. The state’s Medicaid enrollment totaled 1.13 million on April 30.

The continuous coverage requirement during the federal public health emergency prevented the state Department of Human Services from removing most ineligible individuals from Medicaid, but normal eligibility rules resumed April 1, according to the department. The requirement meant that no Arkansans could be removed from the Medicaid rolls for a change in income or eligibility until the federal public health emergency ended, and cases could be closed only if individuals moved out of state, died, were incarcerated or requested their coverage end.

According to the Department of Human Services, Arkansas’ Medicaid rolls increased by more than 230,000 during the covid-19 pandemic.

The department said it has been working for more than a year to prepare for the end of the federal public health emergency. Among other things, the department’s efforts have included making calls to recipients; meeting with numerous providers, partners and stakeholder groups across the state; conducting awareness campaigns that point recipients and partners to online tool kits with additional information; and paid advertising campaigns.

According to the department, 31,754 Medicaid beneficiaries whose cases were closed in May failed to return the renewal form, 9,900 of them failed to return requested information, and 6,412 of them requested closure of the cases.

In addition, the department reported that 8,287 of these Medicaid beneficiaries, whose cases were closed in May, had household income above the limit for their household size, and 3,093 were unable to be located.

The department reported 29,415 of the 68,838 Medicaid beneficiaries whose cases were closed in May were in the state’s Medicaid expansion program called ARHOME, 20,512 were in the ARKids A program, and 10,813 were in the parent or caretaker relative program.

ARHOME stands for Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me. The program was first authorized by the Republican-controlled Legislature and then-Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe in 2013 and has operated under a waiver granted under the federal Affordable Care Act.

In addition, the department said 3,789 Medicaid beneficiaries whose cases were closed in May, were newborns and 1,329 were in the ARKids B program.

In the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act of March 2020, states were provided an increase of 6.2 percentage points in federal matching funds in certain Medicaid programs if they agreed to provide continuous eligibility through the end of the month in which the federal public health emergency ends for anyone enrolled as of March 18, 2020, or after, according to the department.

The rate enhancement dropped to 5 percentage points starting April 1, and will be phased out gradually by the end of this year. For example, the federal government is covering 76.31%, including the 5-percentage-point rate enhancement, of the cost of the traditional Medicaid program, with Arkansas covering the other 23.69% through June 30.

In December, the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 granted states the authority to begin the process of re-determining the eligibility of Medicaid beneficiaries kept on the Medicaid rolls because of the continuous coverage requirement, starting April 1, and to reinstate routine eligibility operations, according to the Department of Human Services.

Within 180 days of the expiration of restrictions on the department’s ability to dis-enroll individuals, such as those imposed by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Arkansas Act 780 of 2021 requires the state Department of Human Services to complete and act on eligibility reevaluations for all cases that have not had a reevaluation within the past 12 months.


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