Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford will be petitioning the state Legislature for authority to establish a health insurance exchange. The commissioner has been lobbying for the authority for more than a year now, but lawmakers have been slow to warm to the idea of an exchange.
Earlier this year, the state’s Insurance Department was awarded a $1 million grant to assist in the forming of an exchange, but it has been unable to use any of that money as there has yet to be any legislation approving and insurance exchange.
Earlier this year, the Arkansas Legislature had been toiling over a proposed law that would pave the way for an exchange. Interest faltered, however, as the legislative session neared its end. Bradford will be pushing the issue again when the Legislature reconvenes for its fiscal session next year. He admits that convincing lawmakers to consider the motion will be difficult as they will want to focus on budget concerns for that session.
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Bradford has the support of Governor Mike Beebe. Both have been vocal in their warnings that if plans are not set in motion to establish an exchange by the beginning of next year, there will not be enough time to meet the federally mandated deadline of 2014. According to the Affordable Care Act, if states fail to meet this deadline the responsibility of establishing a health insurance exchange will fall into the hands of the federal government.
Despite the lack of approval, Bradford has been hard at work planning an exchange. He says that work on the exchange can begin as soon as the Legislature approves of the measure.