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Arkansas residents want clarification on their Medicaid coverage



Little Rock, Arkansas – Medicaid recipients in Arkansas are requesting action from state program administrators as the COVID-19 public health emergency nears its end.

Friday morning, a group of Arkansans visited the Department of Human Services to present a letter requesting information about the state Medicaid program.

“More health services. We have just regular, go-to-the-doctor insurance but what about vision? What about dental? What about mental?” said Valencia White, Arkansas Medicaid recipient. “We have a lot of these different things that are not under Medicaid that we think should be looked into.”

Kanisha Hatton, a Medicaid beneficiary from Arkansas who is a single mother of two children, claims she has been enrolled in the program her entire life.

“It is very vital for us as Arkansas citizens to have a right to healthcare,” said Hatton.

Members of the Arkansas Community Organization spoke with Kristi Putnam, secretary of the Department of Human Services, a month ago to express their concerns.

The discussion, according to White, was fruitful, and they left with optimism.

In the absence of communication, people interested in the conversation showed up on Friday to deliver a letter requesting an update on their request.

The COVID public health emergency has not been extended by the federal government, and it will end on April 1.

Individuals who do not qualify will be removed from Medicaid.

The state of Arkansas is required by law to process renewals within six months, but according to White, more time is needed.

“Other states have a year but Arkansas only gets 6 months. Why?” said White. “Why do we have to get 6 months?”

They are aware of their requests, according to the Department of Human Services’ Chief of Communications, Gavin Lesnik.

“We really appreciate the feedback. If there are areas where we can find the improvement within Medicaid, we want to know about that,” said Lesnik. “There were I think two dozen different bullet points on that so we are taking our time to make sure that we address them appropriately and that we look into issues they have raised. We are trying to do that as quickly as possible, we are just not quite there but we are very close.”

Lesnik stated that when the expiration date approaches, recipients will get a letter in the mail that they must complete.

This will establish whether they are still qualified.

“Send that back in and if they still qualify for Medicaid, nothing will change,” said Lesnik. “If they no longer qualify, they would be disenrolled from Medicaid but we will work to move them to a federal marketplace program, employer-sponsored plan or something else that works for them.”

Lesnik advised recipients to keep an eye out for renewal letters over the following few weeks or months.