LITTLE ROCK — Four insurance companies have notified the state they intend to sell health insurance policies in a new state marketplace next year under provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, the state insurance commissioner said Tuesday.
Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, National Blue Cross Blue Shield Multi-state Plan, Celtic Co./NovaSys Health and Qual Choice of Arkansas submitted letters of intent to participate in the state health insurance exchange to the state Insurance Department by the Monday deadline, Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford said.
With the notices of intent, the companies submitted their planned service areas for 2014, which the department will review for adequacy, Bradford said. The Arkansas Healthcare Independence Act of 2013 requires that consumers in each of Arkansas’ 75 counties have a choice among at least two health insurance issuers.
Open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace begins Oct. 1 and runs through March 31, 2014. Coverage is to begin Jan. 1, 2014.
Consumers can access the HIM through the Arkansas Health Connector beginning October 1, 2013. Additional information is available at the Insurance Department’s website.
"I am pleased with the level of participation the industry continues to show," said Bradford. "It has always been my desire, and in the best interest of the Arkansas consumer, to have as much competition and choice as possible on the Health Insurance Marketplace."
Exchange Planning Director Cynthia Crone said, "We are encouraged with this response to the new Marketplace and anticipate the competition will keep premium prices low for all Arkansans."
The Affordable Care Act mandates that most Americans have health insurance beginning Jan. 1. The law originally proposed that states also expand their Medicaid rolls to include people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, but Arkansas is pursuing an alternative plan to enroll that population — about 250,000 people — in the insurance exchange and use federal Medicaid dollars to subsidize their premiums to buy private insurance.
The Obama administration has given informal approval to the "private option" for health coverage expansion, but the state still has to apply for formal approval in the form of a waiver.
The total number of people expected to enroll in the exchange during the first enrollment period is about 500,000.