Thursday, August 13, 2015

Obamacare Medicaid Eligibility Check Long Overdue

by AFP - Arkansas: Shouldn’t Arkansas root out fraud and abuse of government welfare programs to ensure that taxpayer funds are there for the truly vulnerable and needy among us?

Defenders of Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion under Obamacare have been complaining loudly this week about the eligibility verification process and the news that several thousand Medicaid recipients have been removed from the rolls because they failed to verify their eligibility.

The truth is that this process should have happened years ago, but Governor Mike Beebe never focused on verifying the eligibility of Private Option recipients. As a result, there’s no telling how many tax dollars were wasted paying for people that were never truly eligible to begin with. Governor Asa Hutchinson should be commended for working to verify the eligibility of Medicaid recipients each year as required by law. Those who criticize the eligibility verification process as “disruptive” overlook (or ignore) the fact that the Private Option automatically enrolled thousands upon thousands of people with very little scrutiny.

Unfortunately, the original emphasis of the program seems to have been less about managing it properly, and more about enrolling as many people as possible as quickly as possible in order to make it more difficult to discontinue. And now Arkansas taxpayers are footing the bill.

In recent days, Obamacare supporters and other Private Option backers have urged Governor Hutchinson to extend the deadline for submitting income verification to the Department of Human Services (DHS). They complain that recipients only have ten days to respond to verify their income. In reality, recipients have not only ten days to respond, but they also have another ten days of additional processing time beyond the ten day deadline, and then ten more days before the actual coverage can end. After that, they are afforded a ninety day window where they can still verify their income and if they turn out to be eligible, their coverage will be reinstated. For a program that we were assured would promote and encourage “personal responsibility,” is it too much to ask that a person who received government-subsidized health insurance simply return a form within two weeks to verify that they’re actually eligible to receive it?

Verification of eligibility is badly needed. DHS recently indicated that “over half of 100,000 ‘private option’ Medicaid expansion enrollees will need additional scrutiny to see if they’re actually eligible for the program.” As many as 20,000 recipients are having their premiums paid, but nobody can locate where they are, and many of them may have moved out of the state completely. The verification process helps stop waste and fraud from occurring.

But this whole debate underscores a bigger issue: extending coverage to thousands upon thousands of able-bodied, childless, working-age adults was a mistake in the first place and should be corrected now that the legislature has the opportunity.

Enrollment has blown way beyond expectations – as has the cost to the hardworking taxpayers of Arkansas has exploded as well. Because while the President and other Washington politicians promise they will pick up at least 90 percent of the tab for this Obamacare expansion today, that commitment could change at any time. Meanwhile, Arkansans are on the hook for paying fifty percent of the administrative costs. And waste, fraud, mismanagement, and government incompetence will likely only worsen the budget-buster that Obamacare expansion has become down the road.

Medicaid was a program riddled with waste and abuse long before Obamacare, and in Arkansas, President Obama’s healthcare law has only made things worse. Lawmakers must find a way out of Medicaid expansion as soon as possible. If not, enrollment will continue to exceed projections, costs will skyrocket, and important government priorities like schools, roads, and public safety funding will get crowded out by this expansion of Obamacare in Arkansas.

Tags: AFP-Arkansas, Arkansas, Obamacare, Medicade, eligibility, Federal payment, check, long overdue, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

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