The Arkansas Citizens First Congress today expressed some relief that the Arkansas Department of Human Services is fixing one of the worst parts of the policy, but expressed dismay that they are not applying it retroactively to more than 50,000 families who’ve lost coverage under the old process.
The grassroots coalition of 58 Arkansas organizations has been collecting thousands of signatures protesting Arkansas’ handling of income verification and renewal for the State’s Medicaid and Private Option consumers.
“It’s good that the Governor and DHS are finally hearing the message that their system is broken and they are starting to make changes,” said Mark Robertson, co-chair of the CFC. “But it is an unacceptable double standard to cancel the insurance of over 50,000 Arkansans who were caught up in a process that even the state now acknowledges was flawed and unfair.”
Allowing 30 days for participants to verify their income is a step in the right direction, though Federal law allows up to 90 days. But the 53,000 who’ve already been dropped from coverage are still out of luck. CFC members from across the state report receiving inaccurate and often conflicting information and long lines at county DHS offices still overwhelmed by the sudden terminations. Someone’s access to healthcare should not be dependent on the arbitrary place the state assigns you in line.
“This is a partial step in the right direction but we need need a comprehensive fix that’s fair to everyone, including those who have already been cut off,” says Robertson. “We will keep collecting signatures as long as the system is broken.”
Robertson says Arkansas DHS needs to immediately reinstate everyone they’ve dropped and give them all the same 30 day opportunity to comply. They need to dramatically improve outreach to families who are often elderly, disabled or impoverished. And they need to pick a fair policy they can be consistent with instead of having change every week with consumers and DHS employees confused across the state about what the rules are.
The CFC petition is online at: http://www.citizensfirst.org/medicaiddeadline