Following Medicaid Notices Arkansas Healthcare Navigators Face Increased Calls

Aug 5, 2015

Asa Hutchinson unveiling his thoughts on Medicaid expansion in early 2015 at UAMS.
Credit Arkansas Times

Non-profit workers in Arkansas who assist people with sorting through healthcare options are experiencing a rise in calls following a push by the state to re-determine Medicaid coverage. By the end of this month 48,000 people could lose coverage through the verification process.

Most received termination notices for failing to respond to a letter from the Department of Human Services in a 10 day window, or because the state failed to process the information. Leonard Stern, a healthcare navigator in central Arkansas with Future Builders, said on Wednesday that questions are coming in about how to verify income.

“I had a consumer who recently got a job. When he applied originally he didn’t have a job, had no income, so he got the re-verification letter. He wanted to make sure what to do so he called me. I was able to submit updated pay stubs and he still qualified for the private option,” said Stern.

Those that lost coverage because they now earn above 138 percent of the poverty line, or higher than the threshold to qualify for Medicaid and the private option, can apply for federal subsidies through healthcare.gov in a special enrollment period. Stern said assistance is available for many but the bigger concern may be those that haven’t reached out – possibly because they’re unaware of the verification letter.

“We’re going to see an influx of calls sometime in the future when people who have not received the letter. A lot of the people we work with are transient, they’re homeless, or in shelters so their address has changed maybe several times in the last year if they ever had a permanent address,” said Stern. “They’re going to miss their letters, they’re going to get sick, and then they’re going to go to the hospital and find out after that their Medicaid has been terminated. Then they’re going to end up in the Emergency Room, which is exactly what we were trying to avoid.”

The governor ended a hiring freeze at DHS and has paused Medicaid terminations for two weeks to address what he called on Tuesday an “overload of information.” Income verification requests continue to be sent out to nearly 40 percent of the state’s 600,000-plus Medicaid population. A spokesperson for DHS said over 90 percent of people with canceled insurance plans were in the expanded Medicaid program for low-income residents called the private option.

Stern said those that have already received termination notices can ask for assistance through Future Builders of DHS to submit verification, and if still eligible, could be re-enrolled in Medicaid with coverage retroactively applied.