Health exchange summit set

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 29 views 

The politically sensitive topic of health exchanges is the focus of an Oct. 11 event in Little Rock designed to share “viewpoints on the Exchange business model.

Joel Ario, former director of the Office of Health Insurance Exchanges, and Dr. Joseph Thompson, the Arkansas Surgeon General, will join Jay Bradford, Arkansas Insurance Commissioner, at the Arkansas Health Benefits Exchange Stakeholder Summit on Oct. 11 at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock, according to a statement from the Arkansas Insurance Department.

The purpose, according to the AID, is to  “discuss where a Health Exchange fits in Arkansas’s health care improvement efforts.”

Gov. Mike Beebe and Republicans in the Arkansas Legislature are at odds over the health exchange model. Republicans see exchanges as part of “Obamacare,” and Beebe and Bradford view exchanges as a way to avoid federal mandates. (Link here for more on the debate.)

“I am extremely excited about this opportunity to share with Arkansans the facts about what an Exchange is and what a locally operated one can do to protect and serve the citizens of our state,” Bradford said in the statement. “I hope our citizens will take advantage of this opportunity to contribute to the Exchange planning process and the ongoing effort to keep the Exchange under state rather than federal control.”

A coalition of health care stakeholders in Arkansas have announced support for the exchange program. The coalition consists of Arkansas Hospital Association, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, Delta Dental, Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas, Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families, Arkansas Pharmacists Association, and the Arkansas Dental Association.

Ario, a former insurance commissioner in Pennsylvania and Oregon, is expected to provide a federal perspective on exchange development while Thompson will discuss a state perspective.

Also expected to attend are health care officials, insurance agents/brokers, employers, and consumer advocates.

“Through open forum discussions, participants will have the opportunity to share their viewpoints on the Exchange business model, legal issues, governance, and consumer needs,” noted the AID release.

The AID also notes that 211,000 Arkansans will enroll in private health insurance plans and 175,000 Arkansans newly eligible for Medicaid will enroll through the exchange program in 2014. Estimates, according to the AID, are that the exchange programs will halve the number of uninsured in Arkansas in 2013 from 20% to 10% in 2014.