OPINION: State Medicaid program is reexaming eligibility


LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Medicaid program is re-examining the cases of hundreds of thousands of recipients to determine whether they remain eligible for services.

By the end of April, 72,802 cases were closed. People who no longer are eligible for Medicaid can get health coverage through the federal market place. Information is available at healthcare.gov.

The state Department of Human Services (DHS) administers Medicaid, which is funded primarily with federal dollars.

Since 2013, until the national public health emergency caused by the covid-19 pandemic, federal dollars paid for almost 71% of standard Medicaid spending in Arkansas and state government provided the remaining 29%. Individual programs within Medicaid can vary in how much the state matches federal funding.

Federal authorities increased the percentage of federal Medicaid funding by 6.2% during the designated health emergency. However, as a condition for accepting the increased funding, states had to pledge to keep their Medicaid rolls intact.

Now that the national emergency has been declared over, states can review their rolls and determine who is no longer eligible. In Arkansas, the process began in April.

While DHS dropped 72,000 people from Medicaid in April, the department also renewed the cases of 61,236 people who remained eligible after a review.

Three years ago, about 921,000 people in Arkansas were enrolled in Medicaid. The rolls increased by 230,000 people during the pandemic. Medicaid officials expect the numbers to continue going down as DHS continues to review the eligibility of everyone in the program.

People on Medicaid should take care to respond to questionnaires and letters from DHS. Some people have been dropped from the rolls because their income has gone up, but some people have been dropped because they failed to fill out paperwork required by DHS.

Anyone on Medicaid who needs help with the process can call 855-372-1084 or visit the website at this Internet address: ar.gov/accessanywhere.

Homeowner Assistance

A federal program to help Arkansas homeowners impacted by the pandemic will end soon, according to state officials who administer the grant program.

Aid is available through the Arkansas Homeowner Assistance Fund to people who are behind in their mortgage payments due to hardships caused by the pandemic.

The Arkansas Development Finance Authority runs the program, which has helped more than 2,749 Arkansas households. The program has paid out $30,131,864 million and committed another $5,351,910.

Eligible homeowners must have a total annual household income below 150% of the Area Median Income or 100% of the United States Median Income, whichever is greater.

Participants must prove that the pandemic caused financial hardships after Jan. 21, 2020. They must be past due on two or more consecutive mortgage or utility payments.

Hardships include job loss, income reduction or increased family expenses due for healthcare or the need to care for a family member. People may use the grants to prevent delinquent mortgages, to prevent home loss of their home due to foreclosure or to prevent the cutting off of utilities, including Internet access.

For more information and to apply, go to ArkansasHAF.com.

Editor's note: Sen. Joshua Bryant represents District 32 in Arkansas. He and his family live in Rogers. He serves on the Committee of Education and the committee on City, County and Local Affairs.