Website issues, unanswered calls and long wait times among challenges for those seeking Medicaid in Arkansas, survey finds

Many people trying to access Medicaid in Arkansas face a plethora of challenges — from navigating complicated online forms to long wait times, unanswered phone calls, and not understanding how to apply. – according to a survey by advocacy groups.

Representatives from Arkansas Community Organizations, an organization representing low-income and working families, delivered the study, “Sick of Waiting: Barriers to Medicaid Keep Healthcare out of Reach,” to the Department of Human Services on Tuesday. from Arkansas.

They were joined by a handful of people on Medicaid or with family members dependent on the health insurance program.

Human Services administers Medicaid programs for some 800,000 eligible Arkansans.

“We think in-person assistants would be helpful and a better website should be produced, but not everyone has the internet, especially older people or people with disabilities,” said Neil Sealy, executive director of the Arkansas community organizations at a small rally near the Department of Social Services headquarters in downtown Little Rock.

“It would be helpful to visit any DHS office or other community sites to apply or to find out the status of your application,” Sealy said.

The study was given to Jason Pederson, deputy chief of community engagement for the Department of Human Services. Pederson was unavailable for comment.

Rally attendees held signs reading “Fix Barriers to Medicaid” and “#Fixtheproblem Confusing Website.”

They were chanting, “What do we want? Health care. When do we need it? Now.

By email, a DHS spokesperson said it was “too early” for the agency to address details of the investigation.

“We greatly appreciate all feedback and will review the results to determine if there are ways to improve our Medicaid program and processes,” said Gavin Lesnick, the spokesperson. “We value listening to beneficiaries and recently created a Medicaid Client Voice Council so we can get regular and ongoing feedback from the people we serve.”

While the majority of the roughly 300 survey respondents said they had a relatively easy experience enrolling in Medicaid, 41% said they encountered difficulties, particularly when applying through the website, mail, and through telephone versus in person.

“No one answers the phone or calls are dropped, doesn’t understand how to apply, feels stigmatized or ashamed to apply, website difficult to navigate, and long wait times were the most common barriers to enrolling “, says the report, noting that 88% of those who participated were black.

The survey recommends solutions to reduce barriers, including strengthening customer service – especially during registration – simplifying the application process and basic policy changes to improve access to coverage for Health care.

A legislative panel on Monday approved a proposal to set aside $37.6 million for the state Department of Human Services in fiscal year 2023 to reduce the state’s waiting list for people with developmental disabilities receive services in their homes and communities.

Toney Orr, field director for United Labor Unions 100 who witnessed the delivery of the survey to DHS, said access challenges are two-pronged, with issues existing among those employed by the agency. to help those seeking Medicaid coverage.

“If you’re a worker, you don’t get everything you need to properly do the job you’re being asked to do,” Orr said. “These things need to be brought to the public’s attention because a lot of times the public doesn’t know we’re going around in circles and they just accept it.”

“It’s not supposed to be this hard on the people who need the services the most,” Orr said.

The study found that other barriers included administrative errors, website issues, not receiving a Medicaid card after enrollment, long waits for enrollment statuses, and not never receive a notice of registration.

“When states created more complex processes or added documentation requirements, enrollments and retention declined significantly,” the survey said, adding that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicaid enrollments in Arkansas had declined.

Sealy, the executive director of community organizations in Arkansas, said he’s worried those who qualified for Medicaid during the pandemic could lose coverage as coronavirus relief initiatives come to an end.

“We’ll have this whole unraveling of protections during the pandemic,” Sealy said. “We want everyone who is eligible to receive health care if they are eligible.”

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