Inside Arkansas' Medicaid redetermination speed-run

As Medicaid redeterminations loom, some states are looking to complete the process as quickly as possible.

Starting April 1, states will have a year to determine who is and is not eligible for Medicaid, but Arkansas is looking to be done within six months — the shortest timeline of any state. Politico reported Feb. 27 that the state began sending letters to Medicaid beneficiaries in February asking for proof of income and other details to determine eligibility — more than a third of Arkansas' 3 million residents are enrolled in the program.

The nation has been under continuous Medicaid enrollment since early 2020, raising total Medicaid/CHIP enrollment by 19.5 million — a more than 30 percent increase in the program. When states begin officially determining who is and is not eligible for Medicaid once again this spring, an estimated 15 million to 18 million people nationwide are facing a loss of health coverage, including up to 6.7 million children.

Though individuals have not faced a loss of Medicaid benefits since early 2020, Arkansas has still been conducting the renewal process to determine eligibility earlier.

"It's not surprising to me that we have a state like Arkansas — and now we're beginning to hear from other states as well — where the pressure to move fast is going to be overwhelming," Sara Rosenbaum, professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, told Politico. "I think the government has seriously underestimated just how many people are going to fall through the cracks.

Arkansas has a shaky history with Medicaid after implementing a work requirement in 2018 that led to 18,000 people losing coverage — the policy was later struck down by a federal judge. In February, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders asked the federal government for a waiver to reinstate work requirements.

"The Arkansas Department of Human Services has worked to develop a comprehensive unwinding plan that both protects taxpayer dollars and ensures that recipients who remain eligible for and need Medicaid benefits keep their coverage,” a spokesperson told Politico. "Our primary goal is to make sure Medicaid resources are being properly utilized."

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