Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirement policy failed, study finds

A work requirement policy imposed by the state of Arkansas on Medicaid participants failed to achieve its stated goal of boosting employment, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Instead, the policy harmed health care coverage and access, the study found.

Under Arkansas’ requirements, which were implemented in the summer of 2018, adults ages 30–49 had to work 20 hours a week, participate in “community engagement” activities, or qualify for an exemption to maintain coverage. A federal judge paused the program in April 2019, but 18,000 adults had already lost Medicaid coverage as a result.

For the study, which was discussed in a KATV news segment on September 10, 2020, researchers led by Benjamin Sommers, professor of health policy and economics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, analyzed data collected through telephone surveys with 2,706 low-income adults in Arkansas and three control states.

The researchers found that people who lost their coverage experienced adverse consequences and economic hardship. The study showed that 50% reported serious problems paying off medical debt, 56% delayed care because of cost, and 64% delayed taking medications because of cost.

Watch the KATV segment: Study: Arkansas Medicaid work requirement increased medical debt, didn’t boost employment