Following computer system issues for Arkansas Works program participants, the Arkansas Department of Human Services added a phone-in option.

While the phone-in option is seen as a "step in the right direction" by the Democratic Party of Arkansas, the group's chairman also urges Gov. Asa Hutchinson to "keep going."

"After months of using a flawed online-only system for people to verify their work history in order to keep their Medicaid coverage, Gov. Hutchinson is finally taking a small step to fix the crisis his administration has created," Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray stated in a news release.

Prior to the DHS phone options, it was limited to a website that was only accessible during certain hours of the day, the chairman noted.

J.R. Davis, spokesman for the governor's office, said Friday that although the state's computer system was shut down in September temporarily for repairs, he had not heard of any major technical difficulties since then. Davis also noted that a federal mandate required the state to redirect participants to a page with voter registration information.

Access to the internet in rural Arkansas, however, is apparently one of the problems.

"This is a burden on many Arkansans, particularly in rural areas," Gray said of the online system. "Arkansas ranks 48th in in the country in access to the internet."

Other problems, Davis noted, could be user error.

Gray said he feels Arkansas's health care system "ought to be about making sure that people who need to go to the doctor can go to the doctor to get care."

"The decision by DHS is a step in the right direction," Gray added. "I would say to the governor, 'keep going.' It doesn't go far enough in making sure that people who are eligible for Medicaid aren't getting kicked off arbitrarily. The governor needs to do more so people aren't losing their health insurance because of a self-imposed, bureaucratic work requirement. Without improvement our rural hospitals will suffer, our economy will take a dramatic hit, and tens of thousands of hard working Arkansans could lose their health insurance."

A three-part series on the problems people have encountered with the Arkansas Works program is set to be printed in the Times Record starting Thursday.