Gov. Sanders’ proposal to impose work requirements on people enrolled in Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion plan (ARHOME) is a misguided policy that’s already been tried — and failed.
What we learned from the flawed experiment was that work requirements don’t reduce poverty, don’t help people work, and don’t improve people’s employment outcomes. Instead, implementing work requirements led to administrative barriers and red tape, resulting in tens of thousands of people losing their health insurance.
Gov. Sanders’ attempt at applying work requirements to ARHOME will be another burdensome process that does nothing to support or incentivize work. Penalizing some beneficiaries by relegating them to fee-for-service coverage (traditional Medicaid) for failing to meet the work requirements would create a tiered system for Medicaid benefits that would inevitably limit access to health care, which should not be allowed.
The sole purpose of Medicaid is to provide health insurance for Arkansans with low incomes. It is not a workforce incentive program. This was affirmed in the 2019 legal ruling that struck down the state’s ill-fated attempt to impose work requirements. Instead of creating costly and punitive requirements under the guise of encouraging people to work, our leaders should work to reduce barriers to care.
We believe in the value of work. If we truly want to encourage work, we need to stop efforts to take away health insurance from people who need it and look at policies that improve our economy, provide more jobs at a livable wage and help train people for those jobs.
We call on Gov. Sanders and our state leaders to address the real issues that cause high poverty rates and lack of good-paying employment opportunities in the state. We can no longer rely on solutions that satisfy political interests but ignore struggling families in Arkansas.