This guide provides an overview of the Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange including the history of the exchange, how the exchange will operate, and exchange information for Arkansas residents and small businesses.
Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange Introduction
Beginning in 2014, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance coverage for individuals and small businesses will become available through new state health insurance exchanges (also called health insurance marketplaces).
Most importantly, the key tax credits (e.g. the small business healthcare tax credits) and tax subsidies (e.g. individual health insurance tax subsidies) will only be available for coverage purchased through a state health insurance exchanges.
All states have three options for setting up a state health insurance exchange for 2014:
Build a state-based exchange
Enter into a state-federal partnership exchange
Default to a federally-facilitated exchange
Arkansas has entered into a state-federal partnership exchange. Arkansas will manage all plan management and consumer management functions, meaning they will approve and regulate all insurance plans, and provide enrollment assistance and customer service. The Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange will open October 1, 2013, with coverage beginning January 1, 2014.
Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange - History
Originally, Arkansas officials explored the option of setting up a state-based exchange. However, in December 2011 State Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford announced that Arkansas would move in the direction of a state-federal partnership. Arkansas received conditional approval from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to operate a state-federal partnership exchange on January 3, 2013.
Arkansas Health Connector, a division of the Arkansas Insurance Department, is heading exchange efforts in Arkansas. The Exchange is federally funded through an HHS grant.
Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange - What is it?
The Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange will be an online marketplace where Arkansas individuals, families, and small businesses can compare health plans and select a plan that fits their needs and budget. All plans offered through Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange will by Qualified Health Plans (QHPs), meeting federal guidelines. The Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange will also provide information on the individual premium tax credits and public assistance programs.
The Arkansas SHOP exchange will be available for small businesses with 2-25 employees starting in 2014.
According to the Arkansas Insurance Department, an estimated 572,000 Arkansans will be eligible for coverage through the Exchange in 2014.
Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange - What Plans Will be Available?
All plans offered through the Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange will meet the ACA definition of a Qualified Health Plan (QHP). The plans will be offered by level of coverage for essential health benefits (EHB), to allow consumers to compare plans on an "apples to apples" basis. The four "metal" levels are: Bronze (plan pays 60%), Silver (plan pays 70%), Gold (plan pays 80%) and Platinum (plan pays 90%).
Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford says the following four insurance providers have submitted paperwork to provide coverage through the Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange:
Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield
National Blue Cross Blue Shield
Celtic Insurance Company/NovaSys Health
Qual Choice of Arkansas
According to materials provided on the Arkansas Health Connector website, here are example rates and tax credits for individuals and families purchasing policies on the individual exchange:
Source: Arkansas Health Connector (click here to view).