- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is nearing a decision on whether to continue the state’s push to terminate coverage for thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries who haven’t verified their eligibility, his office said Monday

Tuesday marks the end of the two-week suspension Hutchinson imposed on termination notices that have been going to thousands on Medicaid. The Republican governor is expected to announce that day whether the notices will continue.

“Tomorrow he’ll have an announcement as to where we go from here,” spokesman J.R. Davis said.

The state has already ended coverage for more than 35,000 people, most of them on Arkansas’ compromise Medicaid expansion. Another 13,000 have been sent notices that their coverage will end this month.

Hutchinson announced the suspension earlier this month so the state could address a backlog of replies sent in by Medicaid recipients. He also lifted a hiring freeze so the Department of Human Services could hire additional workers, and authorized overtime pay to help with processing.

The state Department of Human Services has been checking the eligibility of nearly 600,000 people on Medicaid, and the department has sent notices to thousands telling them to verify eligibility using paycheck stubs or other documents within 10 days. They’re sent a notice terminating coverage if they don’t respond within the 10 days or they’re found ineligible.

The terminations have come under fire from Democrats and health advocates, who have urged the governor to give recipients more time to respond before losing coverage. Hutchinson so far has rejected calls to extend the deadline to respond, even though the federal government allows states to give recipients up to 30 days.

DHS didn’t have numbers on how much the backlog has eased, but said more than 300 employees have volunteered to work overtime since last Monday and it had employees working over the weekend on processing.

“We’ve definitely seen improvement,” DHS spokeswoman Amy Webb said. “We know that mail is getting processed. We’ve got a lot of boots on the ground, folks who are working quickly to help us get through the backlog.”


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