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Over 4,000 removed from Medicaid in Arkansas due to work requirements

More than 4,000 people lost Medicaid eligibility at the end of November due to Arkansas' work requirements program, bringing the total number of people who have lost coverage to nearly 17,000, according to new data from the state's Department of Human Services.

A total of 4,655 people lost coverage at the end of November, according to an Arkansas Department of Human Services report released Dec. 17. Since the program began in June, a total of 16,932 people have lost Medicaid eligibility until 2019.

Arkansas' program operates on a three-strike model. Medicaid recipients are required to work or participate in community engagement activities such as school or volunteering for at least 80 hours per month. If a recipient cannot meet these requirements for three total months in a calendar year, they lose Medicaid eligibility until the following year.

Arkansas is the only state that has actually implemented a work requirements program, and the state has faced criticism since it took effect. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has also approved waivers for four other states and 10 currently have waivers pending with the agency, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Despite complaints about the program, Arkansas and federal officials have defended it as a way to help people find employment. However, critics have said that the number of people losing their healthcare coverage far outweighs the number of people getting jobs as a result of the program.

According to November's data, 1,428 people met the state's work requirements in November, but 907 of those met the requirements due to a similar provision under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

On Dec. 12, the Arkansas DHS announced changes to how work requirements are reported in response to backlash from the program.