Feds approve Arkansas private option plan
The health insurance marketplace and teacher health insurance have overshadowed all else at the Capitol again this week. The biggest “news” on the matter of the health insurance marketplace dealt with a call Governor Beebe received Friday morning officially giving final federal approval for Arkansas’ private option plan to go forth. Although approval was expected, it is still a boost receiving their official approval of the plan. The Governor says it is our own insurance plan using the private markets to ensure that all Arkansans can obtain affordable health care. It was legislation put forth by a bipartisan team of Arkansas legislators and adopted by a supermajority of bipartisan votes. It is a model of mostly cooperation and civility that the U. S. government might do well to emulate rather than shutdown the government of the entire country.
The state’s Health Insurance Marketplace became active Oct. 1. This is an online market where you can shop and compare health insurance plans. Even if you have insurance, you may still be able to check rates for your particular situation and get other information and personalized help. Both are available online at arhealthconnector.org or by calling 1-855-283-3483. Applications will be taken for six months so you can have plenty of time to carefully consider what is best for you.
The marketplace has 71 new, qualified health insurance plans available through four “vendors”. All plans must; 1) be offered to all Arkansans, even those with “pre-existing conditions, 2) cover the 10 essential health benefits, 3) have no annual or lifetime limits and 4) have no ratings on certain health factors. Premiums will vary only by age, geography, family size and tobacco use. Bronze, silver and gold plans will be available.
I encourage you to check out the website or phone reference if you are in need of health insurance or if you are in need of a more affordable health insurance plan. Again, I know that Mainline Health Care Centers have freely offered help to those who need information, explanations or any other help. You only have to call and ask. Many of you owe it to yourselves to check it out.
Speaking of health care and Mainline Health Care Centers, I understand they will be expanding to build a clinic in nearby Star City. Congratulations to Lincoln County!
As far as teacher insurance goes, Governor Beebe has been meeting with teachers, superintendents, insurance officials and other stakeholders, including legislators, to try to work out some sort of consensus as to a long-term solution for weeks now. He insists that both short-term and long-term answers must be agreed to before he will call an expensive, and possibly lengthy, special session.
I agree that there is no use to call a session and then continue to argue and “posture” about the issue. We need to forego our own pride and ambitions and iron out an agreement. Then we can meet in special session, enact our plans and return home, saving the state and the people more bitterness and expenses. That said, giving credit to columnist Roby Brock, I fear he may be more astute when he said, “The consensus is there is no consensus.” Still our task is to put aside our philosophical differences and find that near-perfect solution to the problem. Who knows? For some the health insurance marketplace may be the answer.
At any rate Governor Beebe announced last Monday that he is delaying the enrolment period for teacher insurance a month, from October 1-31 to November 1-30, to give all persons involved more breathing room to try to reach a consensus.
On other topics, a broadband conference was held in Little Rock this week to discuss strategies for developing more broadband access throughout Arkansas. Education leaders are desperately searching for ways to boost broadband access to Arkansas’ nearly 460,000 K-12 students. Governor Beebe addressed the group about two working groups of Arkansans—Fast Access for Students, Teachers and Economic Results (FASTER) and Quality Digital Learning Study (QDLS)—that have been meeting to try to formulate public-private partnerships to upgrade high-speed internet across the state.
Although the Arkansas Department of Information Services (DIS) and leaders among the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) differ in their views of the gravity of the situation, greater internet access is crucial for Arkansas’ students and teachers in terms of new digital academic opportunities that are redefining the ways we can be educated.
Others at the conference urged that we begin to think beyond cable wires and fiber-optics to wireless delivery. To be precise, the speaker said, “Broadband is a journey, not a destination.” I thought that a profound statement that encompasses all technology. I presume, and tend to find out, if she was referring to satellite transmissions, among other ideas to come. Satellite service delivers my internet service now, and I am certain there is more new technology to follow.
In a broad change of subject matter, Arkansas’ deer hunters need to be aware of a new regulation recently approved by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) among our deer population. CWD has not been found in Arkansas yet, and the AGFC wants to keep it that way. To ensure that it stays that way, AGFC has made it unlawful to import or transport any cervid carcasses originating outside the boundaries of Arkansas. (Cervids include deer, elk, moose and caribou.) For more information, you can go to their website at www.agfc.com or call 1-800-482-9262 or your local game warden.
That’s all I have to report for this week. Tomorrow (Thursday) is October 3. On October 23, 1963, (50 years ago) a quite notable event occurred in Arkansas. On that date President John Fitzgerald Kennedy came to Arkansas in one of his last public appearances before his assassination in Dallas. He was here for the dedication of the Greers Ferry Dam near Heber Springs in Cleburne County. The dam brought hydroelectric power to that area and made it a tourism mecca. What a technological feat! Sadly, it preceded an event that may have been further sign of a young nation losing its innocence and its civility. God bless America!