LITTLE ROCK – In a decision that may have significant financial consequences for the Arkansas Medicaid program, federal officials have approved a Kentucky proposal to require recipients either to work or look for a job in order to qualify for some Medicaid benefits.
States administer Medicaid and share the costs with the federal government. If a state wants to make any changes in eligibility, it must first gain approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Approval comes in the form of a waiver.
Arkansas, like Kentucky and about 10 other states, has sought waivers that would allow them to impose a work requirement for people who qualify for Arkansas Works, a category within the Medicaid program. Once they are fully implemented they would apply to beneficiaries from 19 to 49 years of age.
The requirements will not apply to people who are 50 or older, or people who are in a category known as “medically frail.” Pregnant women and people who are caring for children under the age of six are exempt too.
Although Arkansas officials have not yet received official notice of a waiver, they were optimistic that one would arrive shortly because of the similarities in the Arkansas and the Kentucky requests.
Arkansas also has asked for a waiver allowing us to lower the eligibility threshold for Arkansas works, from 138 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. That would affect about 60,000 of the 285,000 people now receiving benefits from the Arkansas Works program.
There are similar work requirements for food stamps. Exemptions include children, senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Snow Day Changes
Thanks to Act 862 of 2017, the many school districts affected by winter weather last week will not have to make up a snow day later in the spring. Act 862 allows them to provide “alternative methods of instruction” when snow forces the cancellation of classes.
Schools prepare by sending home packets of instruction that students work on at home when it snows. Teachers are expected to monitor online work and answer phone calls and emails. Judging by news reports, it went well for the most part but there will be some bugs to work out. Parents had to help figure out assignments.
One result is that yet another acronym – AMI - has been introduced into the education system. It stands for alternative method of instruction.
Educators hope that using AMI instead of declaring snow days will prevent the need to extend the school year into June, when classes would conflict with summer school and families’ summer plans.
Another recently enacted law, Act 143 of 2015, gives school superintendents more flexibility in managing schedules affected by winter weather. It allows superintendents to delay starting times until as late as 10 a.m. due to inclement weather, and schools will not have to make up that day later in June.
If it begins to snow after classes have already begun, schools can close as early as 1 p.m. without having to schedule a makeup day. Schools can apply Act 143 as many as five times a year.