NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — According to KFF, more than 1 million Arkansans are enrolled in Medicaid coverage, and many could soon face disenrollment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone was protected from disenrollment, but now that protection is gone.
The Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese has been getting a lot of calls lately from people trying to figure out how to keep their Medicaid coverage.
Michelle Pedro with the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese said a big barrier to getting people to update their coverage information is different languages.
Stephanie Takamaru is Marshallese, works with ACOM and has a child on Medicaid. She has seen the letters sent to Marshallese Medicaid recipients, and she said they’re not translated correctly.
“I still see people my age who mainly speak Marshallese because they just came from the islands,” Takamaru said.
Because of this, Takamaru is worried some Medicaid recipients will fall through the cracks. Many may get the letter and not know what it means or what to do and lose their coverage.
Fei Debrum has family members on Medicaid in Northwest Arkansas. It’s gotten them through some difficult times, even a $10,000 bill when her daughter broke her leg in middle school.
According to the U.S. Department of Interior, over 10,000 Marshallese live in Northwest Arkansas. Debrum says a large portion of them need Medicaid.
“Most of our workers — they work low wages, and we don’t have enough to pay for the medications,” Debrum said.
Medicaid disenrollment started back April 1. Jennifer Tolbert, who works in Medicaid research at KFF, said people will need to look for a renewal letter in the mail and respond to it immediately. Some letters will ask for you to sign it and send it back. Others will ask you to find additional documentation.
The process will take six to nine months in Arkansas. So, people will need to be on the lookout.
“In Arkansas, there will likely be three touch points: the initial notice, then a reminder notice that will also be mailed to the individual, then finally, the termination notice,” Tolbert said.
Once the termination notice comes, you will have 10 days to respond in order to keep your coverage.
Along with language barriers, Tolbert said the letter can be delivered to the wrong address or get lost in the mail.
According to Pedro, ACOM has been stepping up to help get the word out about disenrollment for the past few weeks. They’ve held public meetings, put together information and social media content and spread the information through word of mouth. She said they will continue working to make sure all Marshallese in the area can keep their coverage.