Members of the House Public Health, Welfare and Safety committee passed changes to Gov. Hutchinson’s “Arkansas Works” Medicaid expansion program late Monday afternoon.
Those changes included in House Bill 1003 include reducing access to the program to those making less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level and establishing a work requirement for some enrollees.
Currently, Arkansans making 138 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for the program. Also, enrollees are currently subject to a “work referral,” for which they receive a letter from the state detailing ways to contact the Department of Workforce Services (DWS).
About 107,000 referrals had been sent to enrollees in 2017, which resulted in only about 3,000 enrollees gaining employment, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s joint session speech Monday afternoon.
We need to implement a mandatory program, because 97 percent are not accessing those services. Ninety seven percent of those that should be going to work force services…are not doing that. The change I propose and the waiver I request is that people who are healthy, younger of 50 years of age, and don’t have dependent children then a requirement should be placed on them that they need to be holding a job, be in worker training, finish their education, complete community service or seek treatment to addictions to alcohol or drugs. These are good things that all of these services we provide that they can access.
David Meeks said in committee testimony that the changes generally move the program “in the right direction.”
My problem with Arkansas Works was the sustainability of the program long-term. What this bill does is it helps us to cover folks that need health insurance and also provides more sustainability. Are we where we need to be at? No, but it moves us in the right direction.
In other special session news today, legislation that would authorize transferring $105 million in tobacco settlement funds to long-term reserve funds failed in the Joint Budget committee.