More than 125 small businesses have begun the enrollment process in Arkansas’ small business health insurance exchange, and 25 have completed the process in the two months the exchange has been active.
The Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, which has been branded as My Arkansas Insurance, serves small businesses with 2-50 employees, a number set by state law. Businesses can purchase health insurance for their employees through a website, www.myARinsurance.com, with the help of 104 trained brokers and agents.
The state exchange opened Nov. 1, and coverage became effective Jan. 1. Small businesses can enroll throughout the year rather than in an enrollment period.
The 25 small businesses served in two months compares to the 28 businesses that enrolled in the SHOP during the two years it was operated by the federal government, according to a press release from Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace (AHIM), which administers the program. The federal exchange, which was accessed at healthcare.gov, served about 200 employees.
The exchange was established by Act 1500 of 2013. That law created AHIM, a nonprofit public benefit corporation that reports to the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Legislative Oversight Committee.
It has been created through a three-year, $7.2 million contract with Virginia-based information technology provider hCentive, which helped create the federal marketplace and marketplaces for states including Massachusetts and Colorado. The contract was funded as part of a $99.9 million federal grant to AHIM. My Arkansas Insurance launched six months after the state contracted with hCentive.
AHIM also has been planning for state management of the marketplace exchange for individuals purchasing insurance on their own. However, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has questioned if the state should do that and asked AHIM to pause its efforts in that regard, which it has done.
The site lets users enter their zip codes for a list of agents and brokers and includes a chat function as well as a calculator so small businesses can estimate tax credits that equal up to 50% of employee health premiums.
A contact center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The phone number is 844.952.9522.
The release said the site has attracted nearly 4,000 unique visitors and has had no unscheduled down time.