IN THE NEWS: Gov. Hutchinson and DHS Director Cindy Gillespie. Their poorly designed Medicaid work rule is making national news again. BRIAN CHILSON

Here’s your open line. And for your reading pleasure, another article — this one in Politico — illustrating the folly of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s grind-the-poor Medicaid work rule with a bureaucratic, computer reporting scheme that few seem able to figure out. Headline:

Conservative health care experiment leads to thousands losing coverage

The article quotes the governor as saying his program is all about helping people to find work. Real people tell different stories, as they have in numerous other accounts.

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Some of the people thrown off the program describe a nightmarish, confusing experience with clunky technology and no one to help them. Individuals who don’t adhere to the new rules for three months get removed from Medicaid for the rest of the year.

“I have pre-existing conditions. But all they could tell me was, ‘Sorry, you didn’t comply,’” said Jamie Deyo, who lost coverage and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and back problems stemming from a 2013 car accident. “It just was a slap in the face.”

Deyo is one of nine Arkansas Medicaid enrollees who sued the Trump administration in August to block the rules. She said a state letter notifying her about the work requirements was sent to the wrong address, leaving her completely unaware of the new terms. After losing coverage, the 38-year-old was unable to go to physical therapy or see her doctor to schedule surgery to repair a broken screw in her back. She’s also had to pay more for medication.

“A lot of people don’t realize how bad I hurt,” she said. “I can’t stand up a lot. If I could work, I would.”

Yes, Arkansas has now moved away from computer-only reporting to allow phone calls.


But the state has not hired additional workers to help Medicaid enrollees navigate the new rules, despite the high stakes for non-compliance.

Still more real life experience:

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Racheal Holmes said she lost her benefits at the end of October despite going to a Department of Human Services office in Little Rock once a month to log her hours.

Holmes, who had been working at a grocery store, said it took hours just to log in to the online reporting system the first time. A state worker offered help only after a security guard noticed she was still at the office after several hours, she said.

“You couldn’t get basic assistance, as though it’s a way for you to fail,” said Holmes, who is currently unemployed and has been unable to afford medication to treat high blood pressure since her coverage lapsed. She doesn’t think the work requirements are unfair but asks, “Where’s the assistance?”

Asa isn’t buying the criticism.

“You could show that it was 100 percent successful in every way and they would still criticize it, because they don’t believe that any responsibility should have to accompany a social benefit such as Medicaid,” Hutchinson said. “The criticism is based upon myths and misunderstandings and a totally different philosophy.”

Easy for him to say. 

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