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Arkansas health insurance exchange

Exchange sign-ups in Arkansas swell in final weeks of open enrollment

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Obamacare enrollment in Arkansas has ended for 2014. However, people who get married or divorced, change jobs, have a child or experience another qualifying event may be eligible for a special enrollment period. Enrollment for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) continues throughout the year. Individuals who don’t have health insurance that provides “minimum essential coverage” may have to pay a penalty: $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater.

Open enrollment for 2015 coverage through the marketplace begins Nov. 15.

Signups for qualified health plans (QHPs) in Arkansas grew 59 percent in the final weeks of 2014 open enrollment, totaling 43,446. Among Arkansas residents selecting a QHP, 90 percent qualified for financial assistance, compared to 85 percent nationally. A report released in June by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed the average monthly premium, after tax credits, for Arkansas consumers was $94. Thirty-five percent of enrollees pay $50 or less per month after subsidies.

Nineteen percent of Arkansas residents selected a bronze plan (20 percent nationally), 67 percent selected a silver plan (65 percent nationally), 13 percent selected a gold plan (9 percent nationally), 0 percent selected a platinum plan (5 percent nationally) and 1 percent selected a catastrophic plan (2 percent nationally). Twenty-five percent of Arkansas enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34.

Arkansas is among a handful of states that opted for a partnership marketplace. The state website is called Arkansas Health Connector, and it provides key dates for enrolling, frequently asked questions and other information to help people understand their options for purchasing health insurance. State residents use the federal marketplace,, to compare plans, see if they qualify for subsidies and purchase coverage.

Arkansas is considering a transition to a state-run exchange. The state hired Cheryl Smith as executive director to serve as of the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace and to lead the evaluation process. Smith is the former director of the Utah exchange and also worked for Deloitte Consulting, which helped develop several of the state-based marketplaces. An Arkansas-run marketplace could be operational for open enrollment in the fall of 2015, with coverage beginning in 2016.

Arkansas was the first state to receive federal approval to expand Medicaid through the private option. The approach is also called “premium assistance,” and it has been adopted or considered by a number of other states. As of mid-June 2014, about 172,000 people have completed enrollment for the private option.

While the Arkansas legislature authorized the private option in 2013, it requires reauthorization annually. In late February, the Arkansas Senate approved continued funding for the private option. It took the House five votes to reauthorize funding in early March. Arkansas appropriation bills must receive a 75 percent majority in both houses to pass, and the private option just squeaked by with votes of 27-8 in the Senate and 76-24 in House. Some Republican legislators are already saying they will fight against the private option again next year, and the issue was cited in several state primary campaigns.

Arkansas health insurance exchange links

Arkansas Health Connector

Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Board
Website for nonprofit overseeing Arkansas’ transition to a state-run marketplace

Arkansas Insurance Department

State Exchange Profile: Arkansas
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Arkansas’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.