Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders is seeking to add a work requirement to people receiving state aid.

“Arkansas is still too far behind in making sure that able-bodied citizens are working and we’ve got to get more people off the sidelines and in the game,” the governor said at a press conference.

According to KTHV television, Sanders claimed enacting this would get people on a “clearer path from government dependency to financial independence.”

In June 2018, Arkansas was the first state to enact work requirements for the program, which led to around 18,000 adults losing coverage. It required adults from 30 to 49 to work 20 hours a week, volunteer in “community engagement” events, or get an exemption.

Then in 2019 a federal judge ruled against the requirement along with a similar effort in Kentucky and most of the people who lost Medicaid coverage in Arkansas had it restored.

Researchers at Harvard found that people who lost coverage faced increased financial insecurity and around half experienced “serious problems paying off medical debt.”

Kristi Putnam, Arkansas’s human services secretary, was a part of the effort in Kentucky to add a work requirement for its Medicaid program.

The governor said this requirement would be different than the 2018 work requirement because those who don’t participate in the program would revert to “fee-for-service” coverage.

“When able-bodied adults don’t work, volunteer, or go to school they aren’t just a burden on the taxpayer, they’re also being denied a chance to achieve independence from the welfare system,” Sanders said. “With today’s change we can break that vicious cycle.”

Putnam said the state will post a draft Medicaid waiver amendment on April 23 for 30 days of public comments. Arkansas expects to submit the amendment on June 1.

The proposed amendment is expected to go into effect in January 2024.