Buying short-term coverage in Arkansas
- Arkansas defaults to federal regulations for short-term plans.
- Short-term plans are allowed to have initial terms up to 364 days, and total duration, including renewal, of up to 36 months.
- Short-term rates must go through the state’s review process and cover certain state-mandated benefits.
- The state’s insurance department has issued consumer alerts about short-term telemarketers, including one in November 2018, after short-term plans’ allowable duration had been extended.
- At least ten insurers offer short-term plans in Arkansas.
Arkansas defaults to federal short-term regulations
Arkansas defaults to the federal regulations in terms of the allowable duration of short-term plans, but the state conducts rate review for short-term plans to ensure that the rates are actuarially justified, and also requires short-term plans to include coverage for some state-mandated benefits.
How long can short-term plans last in Arkansas?
Because Arkansas doesn’t impose its own limits on the duration of short-term plans, the Trump Administration’s new regulations apply in Arkansas. Insurers are allowed to offer short-term plans with initial terms up to 364 days and the option to renew for a total duration of up to 36 months. Prior to October 2, 2018, federal rules limited short-term health plans to three months in duration, and prohibited renewal. But the Trump Administration has relaxed those rules.
Insurers can offer short-term plans with maximum durations that are below the limits allowed under federal regulations. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arkansas has a maximum short-term plan duration of 88 days, and nothing requires them to extend that under the new federal guidelines.
Arkansas insurance regulations for short-term plans
The Arkansas Insurance Department allows short-term insurers to submit their initial rate filings and implement them without review, but rate changes after that are required to go through the state’s rate review process (short-term rate filings in SERFF indicate that Bulletin 14-2016 and Arkansas statute 23-79-109 are applicable to short-term plan rate filings).
Arkansas also requires short-term plans to cover some state-mandated benefits, but these are not the same as the ACA’s essential health benefits. Some examples of state-mandated medical benefits applicable to short-term health insurance plans are preventive healthcare for children, medical foods, gastric pacemakers, and treatment for loss or impairment of speech or hearing. The applicable statute governing each state-mandated benefit is available on the Arkansas Insurance Department website. The plan description form for short-term health insurance offered by Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield illustrates examples of how the various state-mandated benefits are covered.
Arkansas insurance statute also indicates that sections 23-85-105 through 23-85-117 are applicable to all plans sold in the state, but those regulations largely pertain to things like billing, grace periods, and the processing of claims, rather than coverage of medical conditions.
The Arkansas Insurance Department issued a consumer alert in 2016, warning people about “high-pressure telemarketers” who were selling short-term plans over the phone and erroneously stating that the plans were ACA-compliant (short-term plans are, by definition, not regulated by the ACA).
In November 2018, after the allowable duration for short-term plans had been extended, the Arkansas Insurance Department issued another warning to consumers, noting that short-term plans are not compliant with the ACA, do not cover some of the ACA’s essential health benefits, do not cover pre-existing conditions, use medical underwriting to determine eligibility for coverage, and are limited to initial terms of under 12 months.
Which insurers offer short-term plans in Arkansas?
- Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield
- Companion Life
- Everest Prime
- Golden Rule (UnitedHealthcare)
- Independence American Life
- National General
- QualChoice (QuicChoice)
- Standard Life
Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.