Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson unveils his plan to add work requirements to the state’s Medicaid expansion on March 6, 2017.
Photo: AP/REX/Shutterstock/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Nearly 17,000 people have now lost Medicaid coverage in Arkansas due to the state’s onerous work requirements, according to state data released Monday. That’s up from 12,277 in October, continuing a trend that analysts directly attribute to the structure of the state’s Arkansas Work program. While the program’s defenders in state and national government describe Arkansas Works as a model for other states, as well as for federal policy, their motivations for doing so should now be obvious. The state’s version of means-testing — policy that ties the level of social welfare a person receives to their income bracket or employment status — has penalized thousands of people for being out of work or for working irregular hours. Arkansas saves money on welfare, but as other, similar means-tested reforms demonstrate, needy people will bear heavier burdens as a result.

As KUAR Public Radio reported, Arkansas implemented an idiosyncratic version of Medicaid expansion. “Many Republican-leaning states chose not to expand their populations. Arkansas did, but instead of simply expanding Medicaid, it used mostly federal funds to purchase private health insurance for those lower-income individuals,” KUAR explained. Arkansas also applied for and received a waiver from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to attach work requirements to its program. Beneficiaries must work at least 80 hours per month and submit proof of work, study, or community service to the state every month online in order to remain enrolled in Medicaid. If a person doesn’t meet these requirements three months in a row, they lose coverage, and must reapply the following January.