What’s Up with Arkansas?!?

Milwaukee       No matter what P.T. Barnum once said, sometimes bad press is really bad press, even when they spell your name right, and that’s what seems to be happening in Arkansas now, thanks to the boneheaded right wing in the legislature and in Republican bureaucracy that is trying to punish the poor and lower income families.

The Economist is not what you could every confuse with a fake news, liberal, lefty rag.  It’s conservative, if not libertarian, on all manner of issues.  Nonetheless, there it was with both an editorial and a lead article slamming what it called “the Arkansas experiment” at denying Medicaid benefits to poor families because of onerous and inept reporting requirements for so-called “community engagement,” meaning work, volunteering or whatever.  The state was given the first such waiver in the country to allow it to essentially deny health benefits to the poor.  I’m already embarrassed for Arkansas, even as I write this much, but it gets much worse.  The Kaiser Foundation estimates that if all fifteen, largely Republican states that applied in me-too fashion to follow Arkansas were granted such waivers, it would push between 1.4 million and 4 million people off of coverage.

As The Economist reports in devastating fashion,

“The preliminary results from the Arkansas experiment look alarming:  18,000 people lost their health insurance in the first six months because they did not comply….Confusion seems widespread.  Many only realize they have lost insurance in the pharmacy, after trying to pick up a prescription they can no longer afford.  In some months more than 90% of those required to report their activities did not.  For the first few months reporting could only be done online.  More than 20% of those affected did not have access to the internet:  those that did found the website, which shuts down between 9pm and 7am, clunky and complicated.”

How can anyone from DHHS nationally down to Governor Hutchinson in Arkansas claim this is about “responsibility,” when their implementation is so completely irresponsible?

From there the Arkansas story becomes even more despicable.  The state has no way to count and isn’t much interested in doing so.  It’s own incompetence at determining where the reporting responsibility has failed or whether jobs changed, were lost or found is covered up by their own failure and whitewashed by Washington.  Hutchinson was left telling The Economist that he was sure one of the 18,000 “out there is healthy, has received a notice, understands the responsibility but just doesn’t do it.  And what do you do at that point? He asks.”  Wow!  I guess, Governor, you deny 17,999 in order to punish that one scofflaw bastard.  The ignorance and bias of his statement takes my breath away!

Oh, and then there’s the legislative fight to undue the will of the people in voting to raise the state minimum wage from $8.50 to $11 over coming years.  An Arkansas state house panel advanced legislation that would exempt “small businesses, some non-profits and teenagers” from a minimum wage hike approved by voters last November . On this one, Governor Asa Hutchinson and the state’s Republican party came out against the move. “I think the public has spoken on it and I think we need to abide by that,” Hutchinson said to the Associated Press.

Governor are you sure?  There might be one joker out there who will get the new minimum wage who you don’t think deserves it.  Don’t you want to punish everyone in the whole state of Arkansas in order to make them work harder because of that one guy?

Arkansas is going to have change its motto from the Wonder State to the WTF State soon.

Please enjoy Renée Wahl and The Sworn Secrets’ To the Bone.

Thanks to KABF.

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Fake-Work Ideology Will Kill People in Arkansas and Elsewhere

New Orleans    Study after study details the fact that with 45 million Americans employed in low-paying service sector jobs paying usually minimal wages for often part-time hours in a period of almost record low unemployment hovering around 4%, work in this age of excruciating inequality is simply not enough to get a family out of poverty.  A lengthy New York Times magazine article by Matthew Desmond of Evicted fame piled on as well.  Let’s face it, there is a work-myth that has gained ideological dominance for the last almost 50 years in a straight line from Ronald Reagan to many lesser rightwing conservatives today.  The heart of the myth is that there is a magic bullet that will eliminate poverty, as if they really cared, and that bullet is work, no matter how little it pays, how large the family, or where you live.

In these dark times states regularly bumping their butts on the bottom of the income ladder are competing to see how draconian they can be in punishing the poor for their own poverty.  West Virginia seemed to be winning the race for quite some time, and jumped out ahead of this rat pack in requesting an exemption from the federal Center for Medical Services (CMS) so that they could require a work test to receive the expanded Medicaid healthcare benefits allowed to the working poor under the Affordable Care Act.  Arkansas though jumped to the front of the death march in both securing the exemption and trumpeting their own cruelty.

Governor Asa Hutchinson recently lauded the fact that the state had been able to jettison 4300 from the expanded Medicaid program in the state for failure to report on their efforts to find work.  The requirements are 80-hours of something work-like such as training, job searches, or their equivalency.  If reports are not timely and correctly filed for three months, then the state has seized the right to bar you from health insurance for some period of time, regardless of the circumstances or in fact your health.  Many of the recipients were exempted from this requirement because of infirmities recognized by the state or the fact that their children were too young, but the rest had their backs against this work-vs-welfare ideological wall.  The governor claimed that 1000 got jobs, but lord knows whether that made them less poor and it certainly did not necessarily mean that they were off of Medicaid.  There are 16,000 Arkansas families that are on the bubble, and these 4300 are the ones that hit the 3-month mark of failing to get their reports into the state in a timely fashion.

Experts and observers nationally and in Arkansas are asking CMS to suspend approval of these work requirements until there is more information on why so many are being disqualified.  Is it inability to access the internet, difficult forms, illiteracy, distance from state offices, or what?  Studies in other programs and states have established that simply requiring regular reporting period will reduce the rolls for entitlement programs.

There is no doubt on one score.  People will die without healthcare and while conservative ideologues tout their success in punishing the poor.  Who will ever wash the blood off of their hands?

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