LITTLE ROCK — The newly created board of Arkansas’ health insurance exchange lacks diversity, a state senator complained Wednesday.
Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, raised the concern at a meeting of the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Legislative Oversight Committee.
"I am deeply, deeply troubled about the fact that there are no people of color that I can identify on this committee," she said. "I think it does a disservice to us and to the state."
The insurance exchange, a marketplace where people and small businesses can shop for insurance policies that fit their needs, is mandated under the federal health care law. Enrollment is scheduled to begin Oct. 1 for insurance coverage that will begin Jan. 1.
Chesterfield also noted that nearly all of the members of the exchange’s board of directors are from Little Rock.
"Were I to talk about other places — we’re talking about the Delta, we’re talking about the northeastern part of the state — there is no representation there," she said.
Gov. Mike Beebe, House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, and Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, each appointed three members to the board, as required under Act 1500 of this year, the state law that created the exchange, the board and the legislative oversight committee.
The appointees are HealthScope Benefits executive Mike Castleberry, lawyer Chris Parker, retired state Supreme Court justice Annabelle Imber Tuck, Dillard’s executive Sherrill Wise, insurance agent Greg Hatcher, Bean Hamilton Corporate Benefits executive Fred Bean and Stephens Insurance executive John Denery, all of Little Rock; Dr. Jerry Jones of Cabot; and Central Arkansas Telephone Cooperative General Manager and former legislator Steve Faris of Hot Springs.
Per statute, the board also includes state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford and state Department of Human Services Director John Selig, both of Little Rock.
Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, noted that Act 1500 specifies that the health care industry, the insurance industry and consumers be represented on the board.
"Health insurance is, in my opinion, a very unique animal in a way. It’s not simple and it involves a large number of individuals — that’s your providers, your payers and your recipients of care, and each each one of those individuals are represented on the marketplace (board)," he said.
Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, co-chairman of the oversight committee, said Chesterfield had raised a valid point, but he also said the board will answer to the legislative oversight committee, which he said is diverse and represents districts across the state.
‘There is a wide swathe of individuals in this room," he said.
Act 1500 states that the officials making appointments to the board "may consider" race, gender and geographical diversity in making their appointments but does not require that those factors be considered.