The Conway Noon Rotary Club met at the Conway Country Club on Thursday, Sept. 20. Arkansas Insurance Commissioner, Jay Bradford, spoke on how the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) will affect Arkansans in Conway. Joining Commissioner Bradford at the meeting was another member of his staff, Cynthia Crone, Health Insurance Exchange Partnership Director. The main point in Bradford’s speech was we can either regulate healthcare reform or the federal government will do it for us. Bradford said we can’t change Obamacare, as it was enacted by the U.S. Congress and can only be changed by the U.S. Congress, but we do have an option as to what we regulate. Bradford stressed, “No member of the Arkansas legislature voted for or against the Affordable Care Act.” He said the question for our legislature is whether the Arkansas Insurance Department will continue to regulate consumer protection in Arkansas or lose it to the federal government.
Arkansas is receiving an $18 million grant, funded by the federal government, to help connect Arkansans to the federal exchange. This funding will help educate people on how to get insurance through the exchange.
Crone took the podium and said, “We need change because the costs of the current health care system are unsustainable, and premiums have more than doubled in the last 10 years.”
She said some benefits of the Affordable Care Act that Arkansans already enjoy are: 1) Children up to the age of 26 have the option of remaining on their parent’s insurance. 2) The pre-existing condition exclusion on insurance policies is now removed for children (this will be the case for everyone in 2014). 3) Lifetime caps have been removed (annual caps will be removed in 2014).
“We are on a fast track to get this done,” said Crone, “Arkansas’ ‘blueprint’ must be submitted by November 16th.”
Bradford’s office has a meeting with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in early October to define how Arkansas will manage the Partnership Exchange. Arkansas’ plan for implementation must be complete and approved by the federal government by the end of the 2012 calendar year. The design, policies and most guidelines for the Partnership Exchange must be in place by Jan. 1, 2013. Open enrollment begins Oct. 1, 2013, and full implementation must be completed by Jan. 1, 2014. Crone said they’re also working to bring insurance competition to the state in order to help keep health care costs affordable.