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State exchange to lose 1 insurer for '17; 4 aboard

by Andy Davis | April 8, 2016 at 2:19 a.m. | Updated April 8, 2016 at 2:19 a.m.

UnitedHealth Group will stop offering plans on Arkansas' health insurance exchange next year, a spokesman for the Arkansas Insurance Department said Thursday.

The Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer offered plans this year for the first time, but it didn't submit plans to the department for 2017, department spokesman Ryan James said.

The deadline for insurers to submit such plans was April 1, he said.

Meanwhile, St. Louis-based Centene Corp., which has offered plans on Arkansas' exchange for individual consumers since the coverage started in 2014, has submitted plans to offer policies next year on the state's small-business exchange.

Currently, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the only company with plans on the small-business exchange.

Centene's Celtic Insurance Co. sells plans under the brand Ambetter Arkansas.

Celtic CEO John Ryan said the company wanted to ensure it will be able to participate in offering subsidized coverage to small businesses under the Arkansas Works legislation that the state General Assembly is considering this week.

The legislation would allow participating business owners to offer coverage subsidized by Medicaid to employees who have incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level: $16,394 for an individual, for example, or $33,534 for a family of four.

But J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said insurers would not have to offer plans through the small-business exchange to participate in Arkansas Works.

Created under the 2010 federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the insurance exchanges offer online portals for consumers and small-business owners and employees to compare and select health insurance plans.

The exchange for individual consumers also makes tax credit subsidies available to many people who don't qualify for Medicaid and who have incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level: $47,520 for an individual, for instance, or $97,200 for a family of four.

Under the so-called private option, Arkansas also uses the individual exchange plans as a primary way of providing coverage to low-income adults who became eligible for Medicaid under an expansion of the program approved by the Legislature in 2013.

As part of the Small Business Health Options Program, the small-business exchanges also allow businesses with fewer than 25 employees and with an average wage of less than $50,000 to apply for a tax credit to offset the cost of providing coverage.

According to news reports, UnitedHealth Group warned in November that it was considering withdrawing from exchanges across the country in 2017 after paying out more than it expected for customers' medical care.

A spokesman for the company didn't respond to questions submitted by a reporter on Thursday.

Arkansas Department of Human Services spokesman Amy Webb said 704 Arkansans were enrolled in United plans under the private option as of the end of January.

The enrollees will be able to switch to a different plan during the regular open enrollment period this fall, she said. Those who don't change plans will be automatically assigned to a plan offered by a different company.

Arkansans enrolled in United Health exchange plans outside of the private option will also have to find other coverage for 2017, said James, the Insurance Department spokesman.

Four other companies plan to continue offering coverage on the insurance exchange next year, James said.

Those companies are Centene, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and QualChoice Health Insurance.

A Section on 04/08/2016

Print Headline: State exchange to lose 1 insurer for '17; 4 aboard


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