Nearly 73,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Arkansas lose coverage in April

FILE — The Arkansas Department of Human Services at Donaghey Plaza in Little Rock is shown in this 2019 file photo.
FILE — The Arkansas Department of Human Services at Donaghey Plaza in Little Rock is shown in this 2019 file photo.

The cases of 72,802 Medicaid beneficiaries in Arkansas were closed at the end of April because they are either no longer eligible for Medicaid or didn’t return requested information necessary to determine their eligibility, the Arkansas Department of Human Services reported Monday.

The closed cases include 44,667 Medicaid beneficiaries whose coverage had been previously extended because of special eligibility rules during the federal public public health emergency and 28,135 other Medicaid beneficiaries whose coverage was closed as part of normal operations, state Department of Human Services spokesman Gavin Lesnick said. The reasons for ending the coverage will vary among these groups, he said.

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

In contrast, about 25,000 Medicaid beneficiaries were dis-enrolled in April of 2018 and April of 2019 prior to the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, according to the department.

Among all cases due in April, 61,236 Medicaid beneficiaries had their coverage renewed after their eligibility was confirmed under the normal eligibility rules, the department said.

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, are incarcerated or requested their coverage end.

The state Department of Human Services said it’s now working to comply with normal eligibility rules that are set by Congress and the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The department “is moving swiftly to dis-enroll individuals who are no longer eligible to ensure that Medicaid resources go to beneficiaries who truly need them, and this will continue in the coming months as the unwinding progresses,” the department said in its news release.

Lesnick said the Medicaid program’s total enrollment, which reflects the 72,802 closures, was 1.06 million on May 1, and Medicaid’s enrollment totaled 1.13 million on April 30.

Arkansas’ Medicaid rolls increased by more than 230,000 during the covid-19 pandemic.

“We expect total enrollment to continue to decline as we reevaluate eligibility, and we will report the numbers each month during the process,” the department said.

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