(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) plans to release a report on Monday detailing the number of Medicaid recipients who were disenrolled at the end of April because they are no longer eligible for the program.
During the federally-declared COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) that began in March 2020, special rules were put in place that kept most Medicaid recipients on the program even if their circumstances changed and they normally would have been determined ineligible. Normal eligibility rules returned last month for all beneficiaries, and DHS initiated a process to reevaluate the eligibility of Medicaid recipients whose coverage would have ended without the special rules during the PHE.
“Arkansas is required to comply with the eligibility rules set by Congress and the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services in line with President Biden’s ending of the federal Public Health Emergency later this month,” said DHS Secretary Kristi Putnam. “The cases we will report on next week, as well as those that will be closed in the coming months, bring our Medicaid rolls in line with these federal regulations. This process will also protect taxpayers by removing ineligible beneficiaries from Medicaid while ensuring there are sufficient resources to sustain the program for beneficiaries who are still eligible.”
The federally declared PHE will end on May 11, but the continuous coverage requirement that kept most recipients on Medicaid during the pandemic actually expired on April 1. Shortly prior to that expiration, DHS had identified approximately 420,000 Medicaid recipients whose coverage was extended because of the special rules.
DHS began sending renewal letters to these Medicaid recipients in February, and will continue sending letters in phases through the summer.
Initial disenrollment of beneficiaries whose coverage was extended because of the PHE, but who are no longer eligible, began at the end of April. DHS is required under state law to redetermine eligibility for these beneficiaries within six months of April 1.
Steps for beneficiaries
DHS has been working for more than a year in preparation for the end of the PHE, and is continuing to encourage Medicaid beneficiaries to make sure their address is up-to-date, to watch for their renewal packet, and to return any requested information.
These efforts have included making calls to recipients, holding meetings with numerous providers, partners, and stakeholder groups across the state, conducting awareness campaigns that point recipients and partners to online toolkits with additional information, paid advertising, and more. DHS wants everyone who remains eligible for and needs Medicaid to retain their coverage, while also working to ensure taxpayer resources are protected.
Additional details about the process are available on the DHS Renew Arkansas website at ar.gov/renew. The website includes information for beneficiaries, a toolkit of materials for partners to use, an example of what the renewal letters look like, and information on what to do if you are no longer eligible for Medicaid.
As this process is continuing, Medicaid beneficiaries should continue to watch for letters from DHS and respond as soon as possible.
“It’s critical that Arkansans who are covered by Medicaid watch for their renewal letters, reach out to DHS with any questions, and provide any information that we need to verify their eligibility,” Putnam said. “Arkansans who remain eligible will stay on the program, and we will help those who no longer qualify transition to another health care plan, such as those available on the federal health insurance marketplace.”
Help is available
There are a number of different ways that beneficiaries can reach out to DHS if they have questions or need assistance with their case or renewal.
Our Medicaid assistance line is 855-372-1084, and representatives are available to offer assistance from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each weekday.
Medicaid recipients can also call or visit a local DHS office in any county in the state, or go to ar.gov/accessanywhere and submit a question. A DHS representative will review and respond.
Extension for tornado victims
Medicaid recipients living in the disaster declaration zip codes listed below who did not return their renewal packets will not have their cases closed before June 30. This is because DHS is aware that the damage associated with the tornado may have impacted the mail, or the beneficiary’s ability to return the requested information by the requested date.
“Arkansans affected by these devastating tornadoes have been through so much, and we want to do everything we can to support them as they work to rebuild and to recover,” Putnam said. “We hope this extension alleviates some of the hardships they are continuing to face, and we encourage them to reach out to DHS staff if they need any assistance.”
Affected zip codes:
• Little Rock (72205, 72206, 72207, 72212, 72223, 72227, 72211), Pulaski
• North Little Rock (72113, 72116, 72117, 72118, 72120), Pulaski
• Scott (72142), Pulaski
• Jacksonville (72076), Pulaski
• Cabot (72023), Lonoke County
• Parkin (72373), Cross County
• Wynne (72396), Cross County
If you lose coverage
DHS wants to ensure that Arkansans who are no longer eligible for Medicaid have information on coverage that is still available to them. The following bullets provide details for several different scenarios:
• If you lost coverage because you failed to provide requested information, you still can provide that information and have your case re-opened. Depending on your coverage type, you may have 30 days or 90 days to do this. After that period, you can still re-apply for Medicaid.
• If you lost coverage because of an increase in income, you may be able to get health insurance through your employer or through the federal insurance marketplace. DHS is providing information about the federal insurance marketplace to beneficiaries whose cases were closed. More information about these plans is available at www.healthcare.gov or by calling the marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596.
• If you have access to an employer-sponsored health plan, the loss of Medicaid coverage will trigger a special enrollment period that will allow you to enroll in the employer-sponsored plan. This window is only required to be 60 days.
• If you lost coverage but believe that you remain eligible, you have the right to appeal and can do so easiest online.
• If you lost coverage because you are now age 65 or older, you can access coverage through Medicare. You can learn more about Medicare, a federal health insurance program for seniors, at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.
DHS has also published a resource guide on its website that includes free and sliding scale based medical clinics, assistance with prescription payments, and community resources supplying transportation needs for Arkansans who need these services.