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Arkansas lawmakers approve insurance exchange funds

By ANDREW DeMILLO The Associated Press

This article was published December 20, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas lawmakers Friday narrowly approved a $10.6 million grant to continue operating the insurance marketplace under the federal health overhaul, despite objections from some legislators over the law's rocky start.

The Arkansas Legislative Council approved the grant on a 21-18 vote, allowing the state insurance department to continue operating and promoting the online marketplace set up under the federal health law for consumers to shop for policies. Arkansas is operating its exchange in partnership with the federal government.

"This is basically to support Arkansans and help them go through this very complicated process," state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford said after the vote. "I commend the Legislature for approving it."

The grant was approved after Bradford and other state insurance department officials faced questions from GOP members of the panel who said they were concerned about the troubled implementation of the health-care law. The problems have included Internet glitches that prevented many from signing up for coverage when the exchange launched in October, and cancellation notices some have received from insurance companies.

With Friday's grant approved, the state has received more than $53 million to set up and operate the insurance exchange. Under the partnership, the federal government is responsible for several areas, including eligibility determinations, enrollment of individuals and operating the call center. The state determines criteria for certifying health insurance plans, monitoring plans for continued participating, providing direct consumer outreach and education and providing consumer complaint resolution.

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