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Crocodile Tears

Recently, leaders of the Arkansas Democratic Party sharply criticized the removal of 257,000 Arkansans from the state’s Medicaid roles. They called the action “incompetent and cruel” and implored Governor Sarah Sanders and Republican lawmakers to restore coverage to the thousands of Arkansans.[i]  Arkansas Democrats want you to think those bad ole Arkansas Republicans hate poor people.

The Democrats have so little to offer to Arkansans that they are resorting to Washington-style divisiveness and deception, like we see in this complaint.

The Medicaid program has qualifications and requirements. Medicaid is not something a person gets to keep forever just because the person once qualified.

In general, Medicaid covers low-income families, some pregnant women and children, and individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Obamacare Medicaid Expansion added individuals who only report low income. The Medicaid Expansion population is made up of adults who have reportable income of less than 138% of the federal poverty level. Medicaid Expansion beneficiaries are primarily able-bodied, working age adults who don’t work.

What are some reasons a person would no longer be eligible for Medicaid benefits?

  • Despite what Democrats would like you to think, people can escape poverty with good paying jobs or businesses.
  • Some people qualify under criteria for pregnancy or for children, but mothers birth their babies and children grow up.
  • People don’t continue to stay in place; an adult or child who qualified for Medicaid in Arkansas may have moved to another state and is therefore no longer qualified for benefits through Arkansas.
  • And sometimes people on the list die.

257,000 people being removed from the rolls sounds like a lot, but there are reasons for the purged enrollment number.

With government-imposed shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were out of work, and the Medicaid rolls increased significantly. Plus, the federal government then issued an edict preventing states from removing most people who were no longer eligible during the pandemic. The federal edict cost Arkansas millions of dollars for benefits to people who were no longer qualified. And, as taxpayers, we paid for both the Arkansas and federal shares of this amount.

As the government mandated shutdowns were lifted, more jobs were available, and people went back to work and got out of poverty. And many got employer-based health coverage. But the federal government still required the states to carry these people on their Medicaid rolls.

Arkansas Act 780 of 2021 required eligibility reevaluations where there had not been a re-evaluation within the past 12 months. It was a law that should have never been necessary because verification of eligibility had always been part of the program.

Of those removed from the Medicaid rolls, 94,000 were in the Medicaid Expansion program which is based solely on income. What the reduction in Medicaid Expansion recipients shows is not Republican meanness, it shows that once the government shut-down ended, people were able to get jobs.

Democrats want the state to keep covering people who the state was not able to contact, but the state already tried for six months to reach recipients.

Who is the loser in the correction of the Medicaid Expansion rolls? It is Blue Cross Blue Shield, who has the contract for Medicaid Expansion. Blue Cross Blue Shield is guaranteed a profit by the state. There is no good reason to give the company a profit on 94,000 people who don’t qualify and some of whom no longer live in Arkansas and in many cases do not even know they have the coverage. Even without a good reason, the Democrats want you to keep people on the rolls, and keep paying Blue Cross for nothing.

Arkansas still has a huge number of people on Medicaid. A state spokesperson said as of October 1, total enrollment was 868,059. Of that number, 239,423 are on Medicaid Expansion, which is still very high and which is primarily made up of able-bodied, working age adults who do not work.

The Democrat’s nothing burger shows the desperation of Arkansas Democrats and their willingness to try to create an issue using Washington-style divisiveness and deception.


[i] Medicaid enrollment cut by 257,000 in six months, Arkansas Democrat Gazette 10/15/2023

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