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Former Legislator from Mena takes command of the AR health insurance marketplace: Faces fight to save it

In the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, insurance exchanges allow people to shop for coverage and apply for federal subsidies to help with the cost. Nate Bell, a former legislator from Mena, has taken the position of interim director of the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace (AHIM) in an uncertain time for the exchange. A bill recently cleared the state Senate that would transfer responsibility of the states health insurance exchange to the Department of Insurance, effectively ending AHIM. Bell is currently working on a plan to keep the exchange under AHIM control, while reducing spending and the fee it charges to insurance companies.

The Department of Insurance wishes to take control of the Marketplace because as Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr has said most of what the marketplace does is a duplication of services that his department already performs. Kerr has said the Department of Insurance could take over the duties of the exchange (AHIM) at a cost of no more than $571,000 annually while the exchange spending totals around $2.6 million. Kerr states he would also do away with a fee that supports the marketplace and healthcare.gov. Bell has said that it troubles him that legislators say they do not wish to entrench Obamacare into state government, but with the content of the senate bill, he believes it would do just that.

Senate Bill 113’s sponsor, Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, says

This has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act and that is has to do with the state’s handling of funds. For his work as interim director Bell’s contract states he will be paid $5000.00 every two weeks for a total of up to $32,500.00 at the end of a three-month period.

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