By Elisabeth Wright Burak, Arkansas Advocates
The legislative session in Arkansas ended last month with
many accomplishments for kids’ health on the books. We spend a lot of time talking about measures to improve
access to ARKids First and promising new
oral health accomplishments,
including better availability of fluoridated water and preventive dental
But one measure that didn’t
receive as much attention will also be critical for many Arkansas kids,
ensuring that more than 400 children don’t experience a lapse in coverage. Rep. Donna Hutchinson, working with the
Arkansas Insurance Department, passed a bill, now Act 269, to require
private plans to offer child-only plans through an open enrollment period each
October, beginning this fall.
This was an important response to ensure correct
implementation of the Affordable Care Act–offering policies regardless of
pre-existing conditions. However, the effort was also a direct response to the
sale and impending departure of Mercy Health Plans, the only insurance plan in
Arkansas selling child-only plans.
This would have left 400 children in Arkansas with no health insurance
But Arkansas leaders were faced by another challenge:
Mercy was set to leave the state in March, so what would happen to the 400
children between now and the October open enrollment period? The bill allows
for these kids to enter the state high risk pool, already an option for adults,
until October 2011.
Finally, the Insurance Department also worked to keep
these policies as affordable as possible during the transition. Under the terms
of an agreement brokered by Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford, Mercy will pay
up to $3,500 for each former policyholder to enter the state’s high risk pool
until they can enroll in private plans in the fall.
We thank Rep. Donna Hutchinson, Insurance Commissioner
Jay Bradford, Gov. Mike Beebe and the many other lawmakers who worked hard to
ensure that these children don’t see a lapse in their health coverage.