LITTLE ROCK — The newly formed board of directors of the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace held its first meeting Tuesday and took care of organizational matters such as choosing a website address and deciding on stipends for members.
The 11-member board will supervise the operations of the marketplace, an exchange where people and small businesses will be able to shop for insurance plans that suit their needs. Marketplaces are required in every state under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The board voted Tuesday to choose "arhim.arkansas.gov" as the address of its website. The site will be set up by the state Bureau of Legislative Research, which is temporarily serving as the board’s staff until the board hires a permanent staff.
The board also voted to set stipends for members at $100 per day that they attend a meeting or do other board-related work, plus reimbursement for board-related expenses. Act 1500 of this year, which created the marketplace and the board, permits stipends of up to $100.
Cynthia Crone, director of the state Insurance Department’s Health Benefits Exchange Partnership Division, who was attending the meeting in place of state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford, a member of the board, said she was not sure whether the federal government would cover the cost of the stipends.
"‘Stipends’ as defined in federal documents kind of relate to training grants and trainees and academic study, so we’ll need to explore the stipend eligibility," she said.
Crone said the next date to apply for federal funding to set up the marketplace is Nov. 15. The state can apply for "pre-award funding" to cover the board’s start-up costs, she said.
"It’s a risk to the state, because it’s not awarded until it’s awarded," Crone said, but she said the funding likely would be awarded.
The board will be subject to the state Freedom of Information Act. Board member Annabelle Imber Tuck, a former state Supreme Court justice who also serves on the Federally Facilitated Exchange Partnership Planning Steering Committee, said she wanted to be sure she was not "crossing the line" by exchanging one-on-one communications with Crone regarding the state-federal exchange partnership.
Crone said after the meeting she did not think communications between her and Tuck about the partnership — which Arkansas chose to pursue instead of creating a state-run exchange — would constitute a violation of the open meetings provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
"Our business would be of the other board," she said.
Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, presided over the first meeting in the absence of an elected chairman. The board voted to name Dillard’s executive Sherrill Wise as temporary chairman until the panel is ready to elect a full slate of officers.
Several state legislators were spectators at Tuesday’s meeting. Lamoureux said after the meeting that he did not expect the board to need much more legislative hand-holding.
"I think we’ve got some really qualified people. We’ll get them organized and get them together and get out of their way and hopefully let them do good work," he said.