Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirement, similar to the state’s successful food stamp requirement, required able-bodied, childless adults to work, train, or volunteer at least part-time. The state used available data on employment, wages, job training, and other work activities to automatically verify compliance or non-compliance for most enrollees. When data was unavailable, enrollees were required to report work activities. Those who refused to meet the requirements for at least three months were removed from the program but could re-enroll at the beginning of the next calendar year.
Regrettably, Arkansas’ Medicaid reform had a minor setback in March 2019 when an Obama-appointed judge temporarily paused the work requirement.The judge’s decision to pause the work requirement—based on procedural grounds—did not rule the work requirement was illegal, did not overturn policy guidance from the Trump administration, and did not prevent the administration from reapproving the waiver.
The ruling is unfortunate because, as a quick review of available data makes clear, Arkansas’ work requirement was helping advance the core objectives of Medicaid— promoting independence and self-sufficiency while also improving the long-term sustainability of the program.