Combining the insurance systems for public school employees and state employees might help teachers with premiums in the short run, but unless it's accompanied by a big infusion of cash it will harm state employees. As for combining retirement systems for teachers and other public workers? Not happening.
In addition to coverage expansion, there was much talk at the Southern Governors Conference on health care payment reform — Gov. Mike Beebe argued that while it has gotten less attention, the state's Payment Improvement Initiative is an equally important development in health care reform in the state. Beebe said he was "more convinced than ever that fee for service was an unsustainable model for the payment of health care in this country."
Cheryl Smith, recruited from Utah to run Arkansas's health insurance marketplace, told legislators yesterday that they sky was the limit the state could take on seeking waivers for "innovative" ways to deliver coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She mentioned a single-payer experiment in Vermont, but — sadly — didn't suggest that here.
The Arkansas Insurance Department today announced that five companies plan to sell health insurance plans on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015, the second year for the regulated marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. The issuers that have filed are Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, the national multi-state Blue Cross Blue Shield, Celtic Insurance Company (selling in Arkansas as Ambetter), and two companies owned by the parent company QualChoice Holdings: QualChoice Life and Health Insurance Company, Inc. and QCH Health Plan Inc.
Today, the first day of the new fiscal year, marks the end of state-appropriated funding for more than 500 outreach workers known as In-Person Assistant (IPA) guides, charged with education, outreach, and enrollment help for the new insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act. The Arkansas Insurance Department has closed contracts with the 27 organizations tasked with hiring and overseeing 537 guides throughout the state. The change comes because of an amendment to the private option adopted in last year's fiscal session. In some cases, workers will be laid off and those guide positions will simply end; in other cases, organizations may seek private funding to continue the guides' work or may continue to employ the guides themselves, adding the positions within their own scope of work.
Lawmakers today got the first glimpse at details of the changes coming to the private option in 2015, including the creation of "Health Independence Accounts" and cost-sharing for beneficiaries below the poverty line.
Don't try to tell it to all the one-note campaigners in the Republican primary, but news keeps coming in about Obamacare and nearly all of it is good. Ernie Dumas lays out the details — good for the U.S., good for Arkansas — unless a Republican tide really does succeed someday in overturning it all, with disastrous consequences for the people and budget of Arkansas.
Apparently if you call something a “bailout,” people won’t like it! This is the approach taken in a piece on the private option posted earlier last week at Forbes, the third article Forbes has published in the last month or so criticizing the Arkansas plan. We take a look at some of their insinuations, and where things actually stand on the policy and politics of the private option.
Preliminary data from a survey of acute care hospitals in Arkansas suggests a dramatic decline in the number of uninsured patients hospitals are seeing since the enactment of the private option, Surgeon General Joe Thompson and Bo Ryall, president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, testified before a legislative subcommittee today. The survey also found that ER visits are down 2 percent statewide.
Sen. David Sanders recommends an article from Kaiser Health News on how medical specialist groups have begun providing lists unnecessary procedures in their areas of practice. As the article notes, some seem highly reluctant to include their own lucrative procedures in the list.
The Department of Human Services announced today that Medicaid Director Andy Allison — the key state official behind the implementation and management of the private option — will step down on June 1. I spoke with him by phone just now and he explained why he is leaving and reflected on his tenure in the state, including the past and future of the private option.
Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison will leave his position on June 1. According to a press release from the Department of Human Services (see full release after the jump) Allison will "pursue other opportunities outside state government. Allison, a health economist with more than a decade of experience researching and running Medicaid programs, was the the key state official behind developing and managing the private option, the state's unique plan using Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans.
Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Little Rock Catholic diocese has expressed reservations about the acquisition of the QualChoice insurance company by Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates the St. Vincent Health System. The issue would appear to be insurance coverage of reproductive care. Despite the bishop's concern, the deal has been done, it was announced this morning.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families will talk today about a report that notes the huge benefits to children from the Affordable Care Act and Arkansas's expansion of Medicaid under that act, widely derided by Republican candidates as Obamacare.
All four carriers currently offering health insurance on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace are planning to sell statewide in 2015, the Arkansas Insurance Department announced today at a meeting of the Joint Public Health Committee. In 2014, only Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield and the national BCBS sold statewide. The expansion of Qualchoice and Ambetter means more competition and more choices in rural areas of the state. More carrier competition could mean lower premiums in the long run — which is also good news for the private option.
Through yesterday, almost 45,000 Arkansans have selected plans on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, the new marketplace created by Obamacare, according to information released yesterday by the Arkansas Insurance Department (see county by county map above). Open enrollment is now closed, though people who submitted a paper application by April 7 have until the end of the month to enroll and pick a plan. We may also see this number creep up in the next few weeks as the carriers continue to receive data from the feds.
Remember the Koch retreat at a fancy California resort that caused Tom Cotton to miss the Pink Tomato Festival in Warren. Shades of Mitt Romney. A tape of the proceedings has emerged. And it includes rich praise for Tom Cotton, particularly his votes against the interests of Arkansas farmers.