DHS: Nearly 4,800 prematurely approved for private option


LITTLE ROCK — The state Department of Human Services said Thursday it is sending letters to nearly 4,800 Arkansas notifying them that they will lose their health insurance coverage under the private option Saturday because they were deemed eligible too soon.

“We regret that people are in this position and may be confused by the letters,” said DHS spokeswoman Amy Webb. “Arkansas acted in good faith after receiving initial notification of eligibility from the federal government, but it appears those notifications were premature.”

The agency said the error came to light after its Division of County Operations staff noticed that some information, including income levels, was missing from some applications that the federal government sent to the state. DHS officials later learned that the federal government had erroneously sent the state applications that were pending verification even though it was supposed to send only applications for people who were verified eligible.

The private option, or the state Health Care Independence Program, is the state’s program that uses federal Medicaid money to subsidize private health insurance for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. By the end of April, 170,033 Arkansans had been declared eligible for the program.

Some people who receive termination letters may be eligible, DHS said. The agency said those people should go to HealthCare.gov and provide any information needed to complete the verification process.

People who receive a termination letter but complete the application process and are found eligible for the private option will receive retroactive coverage and will not experience a gap in services, DHS said.

The agency also said some people who receive the letters may be eligible for coverage through the federally facilitated insurance marketplace. Loss of coverage under the private option is a qualifying event that will allow people to return to HealthCare.gov even though the open enrollment period has ended.