DHS: State Medicaid Rolls Cut By 80,000 In 2017

LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) — As part of the state’s continuing efforts to cut rising Medicaid costs, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Tuesday (Dec. 19) it had removed more than 80,000 individuals from the program through ongoing technology initiatives and access to data that improves the department’s enrollee count.

DHS Director Cindy Gillespie told reporters gathered at the agency’s downtown Little Rock offices that a year ago her department had just completed its exhaustive task of paring the backlog of more than 140,000 overdue Medicaid eligibility cases.

In January, Gillespie apprised Hutchinson ahead of the 2017 legislative session that individual cases dating back to 2014 had been trimmed to less than 700.

Since then, Gillespie said the department has put into place processes to ensure its Medicaid rolls are accurate through several initiatives, including a partnership with the state workforce officials to identify new hires that receive health benefits, closing cases after receiving returned mail, and expanding a program that finds Arkansas enrollees receiving coverage in more than one state.

“We thought we needed to kind of take a minute to try and pull together a number of things we’ve worked on this year around accuracy and Medicaid rolls in particular, and where we are going next year in some of these areas,” Gillespie said.

“As you will remember this time last year, we were finishing up the effort to get rid of our Medicaid backlog, and the county operations folks they’ve all been smiling because they won’t be working up to Christmas on the backlog.”

Led by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, DHS has taken a number of other steps to create efficiencies and cost savings as state Medicaid expenses continue to grow, largely due to the expansion of the Arkansas Works program.

In November, the number of people enrolled in Arkansas Works was down from a month ago to 306,849, compared to 309,719 in October.

Total expenses for Arkansas recipients enrolled in the state’s expanded Medicaid program under the provisions of the Affordable Acre Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, tallied $133 million in November, or $519.89 per enrollee, compared to $134.5 million, or $518.63 per enrollee, in the previous month.

Mary Franklin, director of DHS’s Division of County Operations, said much of the more than $80,000 in cost savings in the first 11 months of the calendar year have come from a wide-range of programs. For example, Franklin said a partnership with the state Department of Workforce Services to capture previously unreported new hires has resulted in 16,467 cases being closed out.

Another 25,742 Medicaid cases have been shuttered because of multi-state program to identity individuals receiving benefits from more than other state. And about 26,100 beneficiaries have lost benefits after DHS officials streamline a process to sort large volumes of returned mail due to “bad addresses, Franklin said.

Arkansas Medicaid recipients are required to report a change of address to DHS to ensure they remain in state.

But Hutchinson also warned there are still challenges to stemming Arkansas’ rising Medicaid costs, noting that he is still awaiting approval for a long-sought after federal waivers from the Trump administration to cap income eligibility for the state’s Arkansas Works program at 100% of the federal poverty line.

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