The Arkansas Department of Human Services rolled out a spate of new statistics related to the private option program, which saw its funding renewed in the most recent legislative fiscal session.
“We now know that an overwhelming majority of Arkansans in the program would have likely gone without health insurance had the Legislature not passed the private option,” said John Selig, director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. “Clearly, there was a real need in a lot of these families.”
DHS said that a total of 155,567 of the estimated 225,000 Arkansans who qualify for health insurance through the private option had applied and been determined eligible as of March 31. Officials said the numbers surpassed expectations of the level of acceptance in the program’s first year.
An analysis of demographic information of those in the private option showed that most – 82 percent – had incomes too low to qualify for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Statewide, 61 percent of Arkansans in the program are women and 64 percent are ages 19 to 44 years old, DHS said.
“The average age and sheer number of people in the private option will have a significant impact on competitiveness and strength of the state’s insurance market moving forward,” said state Medicaid Director Andy Allison.
Unlike the Health Insurance Marketplace, which has an open enrollment period that ended March 31, people who are eligible for the private option can apply at any time throughout the year, DHS said.
The private option utilizes Medicaid expansion funds through the Affordable Care Act to help subsidize health insurance plans for low income Arkansans.