Preparations Begin for Possible Changes to AR Health Insurance

Preparations Begin for Possible Changes to AR Health Insurance

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- State lawmakers talked in a lot of hypotheticals about health insurance Thursday as part of its fate lies in the hands of Congress.

Dr. Joe Thompson, the director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), told a legislative subcommittee how the elimination of the individual mandate in the GOP tax plan would affect Arkansans. 

Dr. Thompson explained the individual mandate tried to force healthy people to buy insurance to stabilize the risk pool. If Congress votes to eliminate it, healthy people won't apply for insurance so the risk pool will deteriorate, which means premiums will increase. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimates a ten percent increase every year, but providers in Arkansas told lawmakers it should only go up by about two percent.

Dr. Thompson explained something similar could happen if the federal government approves the Medicaid waiver the state applied for, which would drop 60,000 Arkansans from Arkansas Works

"This is a big question for your health care providers," he said. "If all 60,000 go sign up, then everything will pretty much stay the same because the federal government is paying the premium through the tax credit. If only the sick out of the 60,000 go sign up, then that's going to contribute to worse risk in the risk pool and higher premiums going forward." 

Dr. Thompson said it's important for hospitals and health care providers to encourage these patients to sign up on the marketplace under their own purchase policy within two months after they lose coverage. 

Lawmakers also asked the Arkansas Insurance Department about an executive order President Donald Trump signed in October that will allow Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines.

The order, which is in the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor, is intended to expand choices and increase competition so consumers pay less. 

"That would be a detriment, I think, to the citizens of Arkansas because there would be no oversight, no control, no regulatory authority over those plans," Commissioner Allen Kerr said.

Kerr favors an interstate compact, which he said would give his department authority over such plans and continue to keep Arkansans safe. 

In regards to the 2018 Open Enrollment Period, Angela Lowther, the director of the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Board, reported 32,000 Arkansans signed up from Nov. 1 to Dec. 9. This number does not include automatic renewals

Lowther expects a net increase from last year's Open Enrollment once the numbers from the final week are in. 

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