Suggestions about the Arkansas Healthcare Marketplace
Greetings! To begin this week I am going to offer some suggestions about the Arkansas Healthcare Marketplace, because I have had several constituents contact me with questions. I felt it logical that there are others out there with similar questions and I will try to help answer them. Please don’t assume that I think I am an expert because that is far from true, but maybe I can get you started.
My most asked question is “I really need healthcare, but how do I find information on how to get enrolled?” My first answer to that is “online”. There are at least two good sites that I have observed. They are www.arhealthconnector.org and www.access.arkansas.gov. The www.arhealthconnector.org site is more relevant and easier since it deals only with the health insurance plans. The www.access.arkanses.gov site deals with many state programs so you must first click on the yellow box that says “Learn about Health Care Independence”. I would use the first site, www.arhealthconnector.org. It is very well organized and looks easier to follow.
The next question I’m usually asked is “How else can I get enrolled if I don’t have a computer, or don’t understand its directions?” Let me share with you that each county has a source for “guides” or people who can be contacted to help you get enrolled. For people living in Drew and Ashley counties, the “guides” are provided through Mainline Healthcare Clinics. Their main phone number is 870-737-2221. (I have said before that Mainline deserves a big “Thank you” for taking on this task.) This is a toll free number. You may also call the marketplace directly; that number is 855-283-3483 and it is also a free call. Another healthcare marketplace number is 800-318-2596. If one number is busy, try another.
Another source of help for enrollment might be an independent insurance agent. There are four major insurance groups certified to operate in the Arkansas marketplace. These four providers are Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Cross Blue Shield Multistate (not the same as the former ABCBS), Ambetter Insurance and QualChoice of Arkansas. Some independent insurance agents who “sell” these certified plans may also help you to enroll. Arkansas Farm Bureau Insurance is advertising their willingness to help.
I should think the library might also have some helpful suggestions. There may be other sources, but these are my first choices. The main idea to remember is the fact that you may enroll four ways: online, by paper application, phone, or by using in-person assistors, or “guides”.
Others ask me about rates. I will confess I have no exact idea about rates because there are actually 71 plan variants. Rates are determined by your income and your circumstances, so I’d suggest you be prepared and have your latest tax forms (if you filed one) ready when you go to enroll. That information might make enrolment easier and faster.
So you see, don’t be intimidated by what you see or read in the media. I happen to know that, as of October 19, 66,094 Arkansans have applied for the private option health care plans and 62,021 have been approved. (Each application is checked and verified to assure you are enrolled in the best plan for your circumstances.) If they can do it, you can too. Enrollment may be slow due to volume and the variety of options you have, but you’ll “get ‘er done”. Keep your “cool”. You have until March 31, 2014, to enroll!
Remember too that if you have insurance and are happy with it, you don’t have to change your policy. The marketplace is designed for those who have no insurance, or who have insurance whose rates are unsustainable, or who are unsatisfied and want a change.
Other topics I wanted to report on this week included a special legislative audit report on Arkansas’ Community Health Centers. Our Mainline clinics are a part of that system. In 2012, a total of 164,560 patients were treated at one of Arkansas’ 12 community health centers. Approximately 12 percent of those were covered by Medicare and 28 percent were covered by Medicaid with about 19 percent having private insurance and about 40 percent having no insurance at all.
These Health centers are funded through Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, individuals and federal, state and private grants. Our Mainline Health Centers’ number is seven and serves residents in the five counties in southeastern most Arkansas (Ashley, Drew, Desha, Chicot and soon Lincoln counties).
Last week we also heard some lively “discussions” on such subject matter as high fees charged by towing companies, prison numbers growing and putting strains on county jails, vision screenings in Arkansas’ public schools and inequities in the salaries paid court reporters and trial court assistants.
On Friday the Arkansas Legislative Council heard and agreed to a request by the Arkansas Veterans Home Task Force to establish a special Veterans Home Subcommittee to continue to review the selection process.
The first meeting of the Teacher Insurance committee was also held. It was an organizational meeting.
Since one of my Ashley County constituents has asked, I will tell you that the Arkansas Firefighters Memorial is well under construction behind the capital and in an “island” between the Department of Education building and “Big Mac”, the primary office complex. It is a lovely site and will be a beautiful memorial.
Have a great week!