FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For additional information contact:
Kevin De Liban, Staff Attorney
Legal Aid of Arkansas
LEGAL AID OF ARKANSAS FILES FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES
JONESBORO, Ark., October 9, 2015 – Legal Aid of Arkansas is filing a federal lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Human Services on behalf of plaintiff Anita Walker, whose 10-month wait for coverage through the Private Option threatens her employment as well as her health.
Ms. Walker works full-time as a personal caregiver and has to bathe, dress, and groom her client, clean house, and run errands. Her work requires heavy lifting and use of her arms, but, for over a year, both of her shoulders have suffered intense pain that makes her job difficult. Her doctors want to run a MRI so they can diagnose and treat the problem, but Ms. Walker cannot afford the $900 procedure. The doctors will not order it until she has health insurance. Ms. Walker does not know how much longer she can continue to work full-time without treatment.
Federal and state laws allow DHS up to 45 days to make a decision on an applicant’s case. Ms. Walker first applied for the Private Option in November 2014 through the Federal Marketplace. Within a week, she got a letter stating that she may be eligible and DHS would follow up with her for more information. Upon calling DHS, she was told the agency did not have any record of her application. In late January 2015, she filed again and received the same notice. After several more months of unsuccessful phone calls to DHS, Ms. Walker came to Legal Aid of Arkansas in May 2015.
Legal Aid appealed the delay, recovered Ms. Walker’s application ID numbers, and gave all the information to DHS that it would need to find her application and make a decision. DHS dismissed the appeal and directed Ms. Walker to go back to the Federal Marketplace for help.
Ms. Walker’s lawsuit alleges DHS’s decision violates its responsibility to supervise the Medicaid program, promptly enroll all qualified Arkansans who apply, coordinate with the Federal Marketplace to make sure that people have “no wrong door” to services, and give appeals to anyone who waits more than 45 days for a decision. Instead of taking Ms. Walker’s case as an opportunity to investigate the problem and see how many other people are affected, DHS chose to shirk accountability and lay blame elsewhere.
Arkansas led the nation with the Private Option’s unique public-private partnership. This lawsuit seeks to get Ms. Walker enrolled in coverage as an example of the Private Option’s potential to make all Arkansans happier, healthier, and more productive.
Legal Aid of Arkansas’ Filings: