Digital equity stands in the way of Medicaid in Arkansas

I know this story is about Arkansas, not Minnesota but I know Minnesota was looking at a similar law last year. And sometimes it’s nice to learn from the sidelines. The Washington Post reports…

This summer, Arkansas became the first state to require poor people to prove they’re employed to receive Medicaid.

Specifically, recipients need to work 80 hours a month to get Medicaid…

More than 12,000 have been purged from the state Medicaid rolls since September — and not necessarily because they’re actually failing to work 80 hours a month, as the state requires.

The article tells the story of two recipients who lost their insurance because they didn’t have access and/or understanding of technology required to report hours and the rules behind the measure…

The state made reporting online-only to avoid hiring more staff. (It also didn’t allocate any additional dollars to help enrollees find work.) Officials did this even though Arkansas has the lowest level of household Internet access in the country, and the online portal doesn’t work well on smartphones. Once, when I tried it, I got an error message saying my phone’s browser was “not compatible.” The next day, it was mysteriously compatible again.

Most indefensibly, the website shuts down every single night  between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. for “scheduled maintenance.”

No wonder 80 percent of those required to report work hours or exemptions each month are reporting nothing at all.

It reminds me of working on the library reference desk when Government Docs moved most of their documents online. It saved a lot of money in terms of printing for Government Docs but it suddenly meant most people had to go to the library to access these documents. It made a lot more work for the library and even more so the users of users of the info.

Broadband and technology can be a great way to cut costs but only when everyone has access to it and skills to use it.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Government, Healthcare by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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