Arkansas imposed some of the strictest work requirements for Medicaid in the nation this year, which took effect in June. The latest data released by the state shows those requirements are as useless as predicted, with more than 12,000 failing to report the required work hours and more than 5,000 people set to lose healthcare coverage next month as a result.
ThinkProgress reported on the state’s numbers this morning, which show the impact of this stupid, vicious policy. Of the roughly 43,000 residents subject to the new requirements, just over 30,000 were already meeting them before the policy took effect or were exempt for other reasons like a disability or having a dependent child. Only 854 people actually met the work requirements this month, which is 5.4% of those who were not already meeting the requirement. Congrats to Arkansas for inspiring such a massive groundswell of dignity among its poorest residents.
Arkansas requires enrollees who are subject to the requirement to report their 80 hours of required work (or volunteering) every month, more frequently than other states; if they miss three months, they’re booted off the program. 5,246 people didn’t report for June or July, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Human Services published by the site, setting them up to lose coverage if they miss again in August. Another 6,531 people have one month of non-compliance on their tab.
Arkansas had a 17.2% poverty rate—residents living below the poverty line of $24,340 for a family of four—in 2016, putting it 45th in the country. 23.5% of children were living in poverty.
The fundamental lie of work requirements for Medicaid is the idea that people who are poor, unemployed, and on Medicaid are not working by choice, the implication being that they’re just lazy. The state’s Republican governor said the work requirements are intended to “help [Medicaid enrollees] to move out of poverty and up the economic ladder,” by “giving people an opportunity to work.” How does a requirement provide any new opportunity? It doesn’t. It simply imposes restrictions on people without giving them any extra help in actually finding jobs. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis updated earlier this year found that nearly 8 in 10 Medicaid enrollees have at least one family member who is working and a majority work themselves; meanwhile, a majority of Medicaid enrollees who didn’t work reported “major impediments” to work, such as a disability or taking care of family.
Threatening poor people’s lives—which is what getting rid of their healthcare coverage essentially means—is not a way to eradicate poverty, or increase employment, or improve anyone’s lives. It is not, whatever they tell you, about self-reliance or dignity. It is simply a way to punish the poor for being poor, and an ideological commitment to being as grotesque as possible.