On Monday, Arkansas’s Governor held what amounts to a dog and pony show in the State Capitol, over a work requirement plan that could jeopardize basic health care for tens of thousands of vulnerable Arkansans. Our state deserves better.
I deeply oppose unnecessary burdens and unproven barriers to health care coverage. All Arkansans deserve quality affordable health care, regardless of income. Our state legislature must act to address the root causes of poverty and unemployment, rather than punishing those who need help the most.
The head of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, flew from Washington, D.C. to Little Rock at taxpayer expense to sign off on the Republicans’ plan to add a Work Requirement for hundreds of thousands of low-income Arkansans who rely on our state’s Medicaid expansion to get the health care they need for themselves and their families. Many of these are struggling parents who currently work but do not get paid a living wage and have no other options. Arkansas is only the third state in the nation to get permission from the Trump administration for a work requirement, and would be the first to implement it.
Limited Evidence of Success
Experts say there is limited evidence that these controversial work requirements actually succeed in improving health outcomes. It is concerning when the Governor states, “We did not want to wait on a full analysis… we wanted to get this work requirement in place.” He continued, the provision “… is a work in progress.”
Oftentimes, things that sound simple, like requiring someone to work to receive Medicaid, can have major unintended consequences for people who need relief the most. For example, working people would be required to fill out time-consuming paperwork on a monthly basis. Arkansans with disabilities would be forced to prove their tax exempt status every two months. If the person fails to meet the requirements for three months, he or she will lose coverage the rest of the calendar year. This is the longest lockout period the Trump administration has approved to date.
Lowered Eligibility Still Looming
The Trump administration is still reviewing an even more controversial part of the Governor’s plan. That would lower the income eligibility from 138% of the federal poverty level to 100%. That’s just $12,140 for a single person or $25,100 for a family of four. I doubt the Governor could live on that income. But now imagine a person who is medically frail trying to live on it.
Arkansas Deserves Better
Once again, I deeply oppose this and Arkansans deserve better. District 86 deserves a state legislator who will act to address the root causes of poverty and unemployment, rather than punishing those who need help the most. These are my values and what I will work to do as your legislator.