The concrete reality of more than 4,300 individuals losing insurance — diminishing their access to care — is alarming leaders at medical and mental health clinics and hospitals, as well as legal advocates for the poor. They say logistics of the work rules are ill-suited to the lives of many poor Arkansans, who may not have computer access to report their hours online or may not have even received — or understood — letters the state sent telling them how to stay on Medicaid.
Statewide, nearly a fourth of the population lives in areas in which Internet service is not available, according to figures from the Federal Communications Commission. Even when they have cellphones, many low-income people have plans in which they pay by the minute, said LaShannon Spencer, chief executive of the Community Health Centers of Arkansas. “So spending your minutes to report [work hours] — what’s the likelihood?” Spencer asked.
In Lee County in the Mississippi Delta, where poverty is rampant, nearly three-quarters of the people lack online access. “I’ve had people say, ‘What’s Arkansas Works?’ and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, you don’t even know what it is, so how do you know that you need to go online and report work?’ ” said Kellee Farris, who runs the Lee County Cooperative Clinic.