In recent weeks there has been much discussion on health care, health care reform, The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), etc. I thought I might take a few minutes and focus our interest on one aspect of this area; the Healthcare Exchange.
Just what is an exchange? The Associated Press recently had a great article regarding new lingo that we all need to understand these topics (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/new-lingo-consumers-health-overhaul-glossary). They define an Exchange as online health insurance marketplaces in each state where consumers can get private health insurance, subsidized by the government. Open enrollment starts Oct. 1, and the coverage takes effect Jan. 1, 2014. Exchanges can be run by the states, the federal government, or a state-federal partnership. Small businesses will have access to their own exchanges.
There has been a lot of debate in our state regarding Arkansas’ Health Exchange. You may recall that our state made a decision in the last General Assembly NOT to establish a state run health exchange over the last couple of years. The Governor’s Office working with the Legislative Council has continued to pursue a state-federal partnership exchange.
Some of our own legislators have advocated for no exchange at all or at the very least an exchange that is run by the Federal Government, not our own state (http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2013/jan/16/senator-favors-state-givi...). I would like to make the case as to why that is not in the best interest of Arkansans.
Allowing our state to take advantage of efficiencies in existing regulatory authorities, such as the Arkansas Insurance Department, is a major benefit of the Partnership model. A partnership, while providing access to federal assistance, will be run by people experienced with insurance who know Arkansas consumers best, not by people a thousand miles away in Washington, D.C.
A Partnership Exchange can determine the criteria to certify insurance plans that will participate in our Exchange and certify what plans are offered to consumers. Most importantly to me, because I have helped dozens of constituents in the last four years, a Partnership Exchange provides for direct consumer outreach, education, and complaint resolution. I know when I call the Arkansas Insurance Department I will get a person who knows our state and knows our people and will care about resolving their problem. If I have to call Washington, D.C., I feel sure that while the opposite will not necessarily be true, obtaining consumer complaint resolution could result in delays, frustrations, and inefficiencies.
So let’s talk about money, because that is something that is always important. Funding for the exchange is the basically the same under either a Partnership or full Federal exchange.
Bottom line, it will not cost us more to establish a partnership based exchange, we will be better served, and we will have more control. I cannot imagine why we all would not support the Partnership model.