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Health Insurance Department takes over Arkansas Marketplace

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace has become part of the state's health insurance department after Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed legislation dissolving the marketplace board as a separate entity.

The state Legislature established the insurance marketplace in 2013.

The Arkansas marketplace used funding from a $99.99 million federal grant in 2015 to set up exchanges that consumers and small businesses would use instead of healthcare.gov. The marketplace also approved the health plans provided in Arkansas through healthcare.gov and helped consumers sign up.

The bill goes into effect Friday, March 15, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazettereported.

Gov. Hutchinson signed legislation last month that transferred control of the state's health insurance exchange to the Arkansas Health Insurance Department. The measure directed all of the marketplace's funds and other assets to be moved to the department.

Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored the legislation, said he expects any additional marketplace funds that the department doesn't need to be transferred to the state's general revenue budget.

The department will keep the marketplace's consumer-oriented website, which had already been changed on Thursday to describe the marketplace as a division of the Insurance Department.

Ryan James, an Insurance Department spokesman, said most consumers shouldn't notice any differences.

The measure authorizes all of the marketplace's contracts to be transferred to the Insurance Department, which can renegotiate them. Once the contracts expire, the department will follow state procurement rules in re-bidding the contracts, James said.

There are currently 58,915 Arkansans enrolled in individual plans offered through healthcare.gov as of March 1, according to the Insurance Department.

Kerr has said his department can take on the marketplace's duties at a cost of no more than $500,000 a year.


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