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Arkansas kicks 4,353 people off Medicaid for failing to meet work requirements

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday announced his state will drop 4,353 people from Medicaid for failing to adhere to work requirement rules.

It is the first time a state has dropped people from the federal program for not meeting state-mandated work requirements.

"Personal responsibility is important. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure those who qualify for the program keep their coverage, but it is equally important that we make sure those who no longer qualify are removed," Hutchinson said in a statement.

The work requirements, which were approved by the Trump administration in March, require Medicaid recipients between the ages of 30 and 49 to work, volunteer or attend school or job training for at least 80 hours each month. Those who are chronically ill, enrolled in a drug or alcohol treatment program, or are caring for a child or incapacitated person are exempt from the requirement, according to the Arkansas Times.

Arkansas is one of only four states that sought approval from the Trump administration to implement a work requirement program for Medicaid. The other three are New Hampshire, Kentucky and Indiana, but Arkansas implemented their program first.

The state also plans to broaden the program in 2019 by including Medicaid recipients between the ages of 19 and 29.

The work requirements has received criticism from healthcare experts.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, told Bloomberg that the idea is "backwards."

"Providing people with health coverage is more likely to support them in their efforts to work, and taking coverage away will undermine that goal," Alker said. "What's happening in Arkansas is confirming my worst fear, which is that this is really just designed to kick people off of coverage."

But Arkansas Department of Workforce Services Director Daryl Bassett called it "an opportunity for both government and the citizenry."

"It mandates that government invest in its citizen's capabilities in a manner that holds both parties accountable," Bassett said.

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