Some Arkansas Medicaid recipients must start working

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark.-- Tens of thousands of people living in Arkansas depending on Medicaid will have to start working if they plan on keeping their benefits.

The new initiative puts requirements on certain non-elderly, non-disabled recipients who don't have dependent children living at home, goes into affect this month.

Thousands of people across the state receive Medicaid benefits.

"I'm one of them, I already receive Medicaid and Medicare because I'm disabled to work myself," said Jannie Jefferies.

However 58-year-old Jefferies isn't one of the 11,000 or so people who have been contacted by the state to start reporting 80 hours a month of required work, work training, education or volunteering, if they want to keep their Medicaid benefits.

A spokesperson with the state said the roll out is coming in stages, this year certain people between ages 30 to 49 will be part of the mandate, next year adding recipients between 19 and 29 years old.

Before the changes went into affect in June, Arkansas' Governor arguing the goal of implementing the requirements is to bring people out of poverty and give them opportunity.

"We need to train more people. Move more people into work off of that reliance of government benefits. Many times they simply lack the training, the job skills they need. This will help provide that to them," said Governor Asa Hutchinson.

Arkansas isn't the only state putting these work requirements into place but they are the first putting them into affect. Officials say up to 39,000 recipients could be affected this year.

Some advocacy groups are concerned about people falling through the cracks, perhaps not having reliable transportation and the need for the state to make investments in things like job training and job search assistance.

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said they're now turning their attention to education.

"Making sure people understand the requirements and making sure that the people who are exempt from the requirements, know how to take advantage of that qualifying exemption," said Health Policy Director Marquita Little.

Jefferies, for the most part, agrees with the changes.

"What I really think about it? The people that's disabled they could use the medicaid but the ones that are able to work, they don't need it because they're able to work and they don't have a disability issue," she said.

The state said they started letting those affected know a few months ago so they could prepare.