PSE Insurance Central

APSRC PSE Insurance Information Blog


December 16, 2014

The Joint Legislative Task Force on ASE and PSE Insurance met this morning.

Bob Alexander, the Director of EBD and Alix Stephens, Staff Attorney for the Bureau of Legislative Research presented several draft bills that EBD would like to bring forth during the upcoming legislative session. The Task Force reviewed the bills and had questions and concerns about several. Ultimately, they felt they could recommend that three be compiled into one bill of "technical changes" to be submitted in session. The other bills, after further review by the Committee, may be introduced during the legislative session to receive full vetting from the Insurance and Commerce Committee before being brought to the floor.

You can view the draft bills here.

The following bills will be combined and submitted as one "technical changes" bill:
ANS031: An Act to Clarify the Requirements to Establish a Health Savings Account for an Employee in a Plan Option Offered Under the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program; and for Other Purposes
ANS032: An Act to Change the Plan Year to Enable the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board to Begin Evaluating the Amount of Savings Available from the Federal Insurance Contributions Act Calculations; And for Other Purposes
ANS048: An Act to Clarify the Benefits and Expenses that the Executive Director of the Employee Benefits Division of the Department of Finance and Administration Pays for the State and Public School Life Insurance Program; and for Other Purposes

Richard Kersh, from Human Factor Analytics in Russellville, addressed the Task Force. This conversation began at the last Task Force meeting. This company presented a proposal to conduct a study for the Task Force on the effectiveness of wellness programs and the potential cost savings. The Task Force approved the contract. It will be sent to legislative council for further review at the end of the week. Preliminary findings are expected to be reported back to the Task Force in February (during session - so that there is time for subsequent bills to be filed based on the results).

David Toomey of Compass Care Engineering in Dallas spoke to the Board about the services his firm could provide. Compass Care provides data driven health care concierge services. One thing his company would provide is a "research center" (or a call center) that employees could call in order to get advice or assistance on health decisions. These educated and trained workers - or HealthPro Consultants - at the center would be able to provide information on doctor's in the area, where to get a second opinion, where a lower cost option is available, or what next steps should be.

Bob Alexander presented an actuarial study of the suggestion proposed by Bill Gossage at the September meeting. Representative Gossage suggested that beginning teachers have their insurance paid 100% for the first two years of teaching, 75% the third year, 50% the fourth and 25% the fifth. The study was able to provide some estimates of costs and savings to the plan by doing this. While it would cost the plan money to cover these costs, it would add younger, healthier individuals to the pool, bringing overall plan costs down. After much discussion, Sen. Hendren asked the group if their overall goal was to recruit new, young, healthy members to the plan or to reduce insurance premiums for everyone. The discussion on this issue and the proposal will continue in the coming months.

Sen. Hendren addressed Bob Alexander about the "poor customer service" provided by EBD, which has been brought to the attention of the Task Force numerous times. The Task Force would like to conduct a survey of all employees in the insurance pool and the service provided by EBD. Mr. Alexander suggested that ACHI conduct the survey. This will be determined at the next meeting.


November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! And while it may be a holiday week, it’s been a busy one as the political leadership in Arkansas transitions to Governor-Elect Asa Hutchinson and a Republican-majority legislature.

This week also has provided a bit more insight into how that transition will affect the state’s private option and expanded Medicaid program, which is now up to 218,000-plus enrollees.

Alterations will be made, as was made clear with Hutchinson’s decision to replace the state’s Surgeon General Joe Thompson with someone who will bring "fresh” perspective. Thompson was a major architect of and advocate for the innovative program.

That said, indications are that the private option will stay intact in some form or the other. This will be critical for those employees who have lost access to the state’s public school employee health coverage plan as the private option for many is likely their only option.

We’ll have to see what the rest of the holidays bring.


November 18, 2014

Many in Arkansas public schools will lose access to health insurance beginning January 1. That’s when the new law denying access to all part-time workers employed for less than the equivalent of 30 hours a week kicks in.

It’s assumed these folks will turn to coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act. In Arkansas, that would be through the private option, which uses federal Medicaid funds to subsidize coverage from private insurance providers for lower-income individuals and families. Those with more fragile medical conditions are steered to traditional Medicaid coverage.

The time to apply for coverage at healthcare.gov is now. The open enrollment period for 2015 began this past weekend. Reportedly, more than 100,000 applied for health care coverage on the site on Saturday alone. More than a million logged in to the site.

Though some people around the country reported slow virtual response times, the website operated much more smoothly than it did this time last year.

As of October, more than 220,000 Arkansas had enrolled through Arkansas’s exchange. More than 7.1 million Americans are enrolled in private health plans purchased through federal and state exchanges.

Please let eligible employees know that the time to sign up for insurance under the federal exchange has begun – and that it ends Feb. 15.


November 13, 2014

Wellness will play a bigger role in public school employees’ health insurance plans as time goes on, according to testimony at today’s State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force meeting.

Right now, according to Bob Alexander of the state’s Employee Benefits Division, 96 percent of plan participants have complied with the requirement to have a "wellness visit.” These wellness visits represent the first "baby step” on the wellness path, he said.

So far, wellness visits were loosely defined to be a doctor’s visit that included any one of four health-screening tests within the past 18 months, Alexander said.

Now that participants seem to know they need a wellness visit, the requirement will soon expand to be that a visit that includes the full battery of wellness tests. Another future requirement will be participation in the already-offered health risk assessment. Eventually, smoking cessation and weight loss will be calculated into the wellness formula -- and affect individual’s health insurance costs.

A representative with Web M.D. complimented Arkansas on its progressive approach to tying wellness to health insurance benefits, He also advocated for a single wellness provider in the state (though he tried hard not to make his presentation a sales pitch for Web M.D.). And he offered a statistic about wellness programs that caught the attention of the task force leadership– every $1 spent on wellness means $3.27 in returns.

Having one wellness provider is a smart approach, the next presenter, Richard Kersh with Human Factor Analytics of Russellville, said. But the state also needs an objective evaluator of such programs to both provide program guidance and to measure which programs are working, Kersh added. That is what his company could offer.

Senator Jim Hendren, chair, expressed a desire to move forward to hire Human Factor Analytics (or someone like them through an official request-for-proposals process) to use data to help guide future decisions regarding wellness program.

Some other items of note at today’s meeting:

· The public school employees’ health plan is actually doing quite well financially. With a balance of $30,985,000, it’s about $38 million ahead of where it was this time last year. Credit goes to the price-referencing program for pharmaceuticals and a drop both in number and actual costs of large claims. And, Alexander added, "some of it is we’re just having a good year.”

· Rep. Bill Gossage’s plan for expanding the PSE health plan participant pool with younger, healthier participants looks promising. His idea is to offer free health insurance to first year teachers and gradually have them assume their financial share of insurance costs. The larger pool could decrease health insurance costs for all teachers as well as help attract and retain good teachers. EBD is performing actuarial studies. More on that should be heard at the December or January task force meeting.

· A survey of public school employees with 1,132 responses still shows a huge issue with EBD customer service and communication.

· The task force will meet again at 10 a.m. December 16 and will continue to meet throughout the legislative session.


November 11, 2014

The tentative agenda for Thursday’s State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force meeting has been posted, and it’s fairly short. As the meeting doesn’t begin until 3 p.m. (Room 171, State Capitol), it likely will be short too.

Here’s what’s on tap:

  • A discussion of wellness programs by Bob Alexander of the Employee Benefits Division and Todd Hudnall of WebMD Health Services.
  • A preliminary discussion of issues related to population health management and health data analytics by Richard Kersh of Human Factor Analytics, Inc.
  • An update on public school employee health insurance concerns by Shelly Smith, who has previously appeared before the group with testimony. Smith is the head of a group of Arkansas educators who banded together over the health insurance issue. One of their largest issues is dissatisfaction with the Employee Benefits Division and the customer service delivered. Smith apparently will report results of a survey she’s recently conducted of the group.

Check back for a summary of the meeting’s activities.


November 5, 2014

With last night’s Republican sweep across both federal and state levels of government, Arkansas’s private option – our version of the federal expansion of Medicaid – is no doubt facing a questionable future.

Not even contemplating what finagling might be attempted at the federal level, the private option has to be reauthorized in Arkansas each year by the legislature with a three-fourths vote. In the House last spring, multiple votes were required before it eventually passed

Governor-to-be Asa Hutchinson has disclosed little about his desired plans for the private option, but there’s room to believe that he will support its continuation. He’ll just have to pull along the now overwhelmingly Republican-controlled House and Senate to make that happen

What happens to the private option directly affects public school districts and many of their personnel. One of the cost-saving measures approved by the legislature in last summer’s special session removed all public school employees working less than the equivalent of 30 hours a week from the state’s health insurance coverage.

The underlying assumption, of course, was that that the part-timers could and would receive coverage under the expansion. If that option disappears, surely those employees will not be left without access to health insurance.

The makeup of the task force trying to come up with a solution for the foundering public school employee health plan will have to deal with the shake-up of its membership as well, perhaps most notably the loss of its co-chair Rep. Harold Copenhaver. Copenhaver, a Democrat, lost in District 58 to Republican Brandt Smith.


October 29, 2014

The agenda for the Nov. 13 State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force meeting is still being developed. Our hope, though, is that we’ll hear more discussion on a novel idea mentioned at the last session.

Ironically, Rep. Bill Gossage explained the idea at the last task force meeting, soon after Sen. Jason Rapert expressed frustration that no "out-of-the-box” solutions to funding the insurance programs had been offered.

Gossage’s idea starts with a strategy for building a larger, healthier pool of insurance plan participants. It’s the health of the overall pool that ultimately determines participants’ rates, he said.

His idea? Fully fund new teachers’ health insurance coverage for their first year of teaching. Continue that full funding of coverage for the second year, and add a new cohort, also fully covered at no expense to them. The next year, a third cohort would be added, again at not cost.

But those teachers who had reached their third year would begin contributing to the cost of their insurance by paying 25 percent of the monthly premium. In their fourth year, they’d pay half, and then 75 percent their fifth year. After that, they would be fully responsible for the normal charges.

The result, Gossage said, would be a much larger, healthier pool that would help stabilize the costs for teachers already in the system.

If it worked, he said, it’s possible that everyone would be happy.

There seems to be some promise with this novel approach, and if it can curtail rates while keeping the system afloat, it will go a long way toward satisfying teachers, administrators and legislators.

Even so, educators say they would still like more representation on the board that oversees the programs. And improving customer service by the state’s Employee Benefits Division is a never-ending cry.


October 21, 2014

Early voting is underway in Arkansas. No doubt, one of the hottest campaign issues – at all levels of office, it seems – is continuation of Arkansas’s private option. It’s Arkansas’s version of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it’s often called. How you say it depends on which side of the debate you are.

The private option took on drastically increased importance for many public school employees after last summer’s special session of the Arkansas legislature. During that three-day marathon, you’ll remember, legislators quickly passed a bill that eliminated coverage under the public school employee plan for all part-time workers. That’s anyone working the equivalent of less than 30 hours a week.

They did that because the private option provides a safety net for those soon-to-be-uncovered workers. They did that knowing the private option is not a certainty after the 2015 General Assembly acts.

So the future of a lot of lives hinges on what happens to the private option.

Here’s where Arkansas stands with the private option at this critical juncture:

· 211,611 have been approved for coverage under the state’s expanded Medicaid program, the Department of Human Services announced late last week.

· Of those, 182,439 signed up under the private option; 22,372 were assigned to the traditional Medicaid program because of health conditions.

· Even before those numbers were released, Arkansas was recognized for making the biggest cut to the number of uninsured in the country.

Three-quarters of both state legislative bodies must vote yes to continue the private option.


October 14, 2014
 
Dr. Tony Prothro recently warned the legislative task force charged with solving the health insurance dilemma of possible "unintended consequences” of some of the actions the task force has under consideration.
 
Prothro, executive director of the Arkansas School Boards Association, addressed the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force when it met in Hot Springs last month.
 
Specifically, Prothro addressed the option of returning the responsibility for providing health insurance to the school districts, now that the Affordable Care Act requires that employers offer affordable health plans to its employees. Plans should not cost more than 9.5 percent of an employee’s income, which would require a significant input of money from the school district or result in the district offering a lower-quality plan.
 
Pointing to the impact of costly claims on the statewide plan for public school employees, Prothro asked legislators to consider what a single catastrophic claim in a small district would do to that district’s plan.
 
These are the types of questions the task force will have to wrestle with when it resumes meetings after the election. The next meeting, in fact, will be on Nov. 13 – no specific time is set yet, though.


October 8, 2014

One of the most compelling questions asked of the two gubernatorial candidates at the APSRC Fall Conference last month had to do with the health insurance issue.

A teacher in the audience basically posed this question to Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson:

How do we as public school teachers tell our students they need to go to college, particularly if they hope to become teachers, when our paychecks are cannibalized by the cost of health insurance?

The question highlighted the economic stress that health insurance costs cause for public school employees.

Ross spent a good deal of time talking about the state’s mandate to balance its budget. A solution would be hard to find unless there were funds lurking in the state coffers that could be used to raise either teachers’ salaries or the state’s contribution to health insurance.

Hutchinson talked about his plan to reduce taxes for the middle class as well as his intention to bring more jobs to the state, with the implied result that it would raise the livelihood for everyone.

But Roby Brock posed a similar question about teacher health insurance in last night’s televised debate between the two candidates.

The answers, thankfully, were a bit better.

No specifics of how to solve the problem, but both showed more compassion for teachers’ plights. While they agreed that the problem begged stronger solutions, they also indicated that they would be looking to school districts to cover more of the costs.

We’ll have to wait and see who wins … and what happens.


October 1, 2014

Members of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators give the Employee Benefits Division a D or an F when it comes to customer service.

Dr. Richard Abernathy, executive director of the AAEA, shared news of those grades during testimony at last week’s State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Legislative Task Force. The legislators were meeting in Hot Springs in conjunction with the APSRC Fall Conference.

In addition to the low grades, the survey of the AAEA membership also revealed that 75 percent felt that communication from EBD is the same or worse than a year earlier.

That’s not good news for EBD, which has been under the gun by teachers as well as administrators for failing to keep them informed of critical changes and for poor response to individual questions.

And, no question, good communication has been needed more than ever with the drastic changes made to public school employees' health insurance plans for 2015.


September 17, 2014

Expect a meaty – and possibly longer than usual – meeting of the legislative task force dealing with school employees’ health insurance next week.

Why? The topic – school districts operating their own insurance plans – has spurred almost all of the state’s education-related associations to sign up to speak.

The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force’s meeting will be held at in Hot Springs in conjunction with APSRC’s Fall Conference. The 1:30 p.m. session will be held Tuesday, Sept. 23, in Room 207 of the Hot Springs Convention Center.

The Task Force will hear Alix Stephens of the Bureau of Legislative Research discuss legal issues surrounding the idea, called "Option 2” on the agenda. Then Bob Alexander, of the Employee Benefits Division, will outline financial considerations.

After that, legislators will hear from the following representatives from the education community:

· Dr. Richard Abernathy, Executive Director, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators

· Ms. Brenda Robinson, President, Arkansas Education Association

· Mr. Tom Dooher, Executive Director, Arkansas Education Association

· Dr. Tony Prothro, Executive Director, Arkansas School Boards Association

· Dr. Michele Ballentine-Linch, Executive Director, Arkansas State Teachers Association

· Mr. Danny James, Executive Director, Arkansas State Employees Association

· Ms. Donna Morey, Executive Director, Arkansas Retired Teachers Association

As always, APSRC will post a summary of the meeting at this site soon after adjournment.


September 12, 2014

Remember our heads-up about the date change for this month’s health insurance Task Force meeting? Well, here’s another change – and it’s one APSRC is very pleased to announce.

The Sept. 23 meeting of State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force will take place at 1:30 p.m. in Room 207 of the Hot Springs Convention Center, located at 134 Convention Boulevard in Hot Springs.

That, you may recognize, is also the site of the APSRC Fall Conference which is happening the same day. (You’re right, this is not just a happy coincidence.)

The challenge of providing health care coverage and the changes in store to the present system are important issues for our member school districts. We know many of our conference attendees will want to attend the Task Force’s session, and we are thrilled that this change makes that possible.

The agenda for the meeting is under development and will posted at www.arkleg.state.ar.us.


September 3, 2014

Here's a heads-up for you-- the next meeting of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Task Force has been changed to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 23. The session will be held in Room 171 of the State Capitol.

No agenda for the meeting has been posted yet.

At the last meeting, the Task Force was discouraged from looking at combining the state and public school health insurance systems, which are now separate.

Expect future discussions to be about the feasibility of school districts purchasing health insurance plans for employees on their own. That means no statewide health insurance system to support teachers and other full-time public school employees. It should prove to be another interesting discussion.


August 21, 2014

There's been a change in meeting rooms for Tuesday's session of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force. The meeting will be in Room A of the Big Mac building behind the Capitol. The time is still 10 am. Tuesday morning.


August 19, 2014

Next Tuesday’s State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force meeting tackles a long-time question. The Task Force will examine the issue of whether it’s feasible – and advisable – to combine the state employee and public school employee health insurance plans. The goal would be to create a solvent plan that would remain so well into the future.

The Task Force will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, in Room 171 of the State Capitol. We’ll post a summary of the meeting as soon as possible that same day.

Back to combining the plans, though – hardly a meeting on the insurance issue goes by when that possibility doesn’t come up. The answers are always complicated. Expect them to be again.

The discussion planned for the Task Force meeting includes:

1. Overview and Background

2. Discussion of Legal Issues

3. Discussion of Financial Issues

4. Discussion of Potential Combination of Retirement Systems

5. Comments from Stakeholders

Complicating factors that have arisen before include:

· Different funding approaches by the state: the state pays its share of the monthly premium for all slotted employees, whether those slots are filled or vacant. Funding for public school employees is paid for by the school districts only for employees who are actually enrolled in the plan.

· Different premiums, deductibles and copays for state employees and public school employees.

· Different population demographics in terms of gender and age between the two sets of participants, both of which affect usage and cost.

Another interesting, although not directly related, item may come up in discussions. That’s the recently released report comparing Arkansas state employee health benefits (not including PSEs) with that of other states.

The Pew Charitable Trust/MacArthur Foundation study found that Arkansas state employees paid about $20 more a month on health plans than their counterparts and also enjoyed slightly less coverage.


August 8, 2014

The next meeting of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force won’t happen until the end of the month. The Task Force is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Aug. 26 in Room 171 at the State Capitol. The agenda should be posted soon at www.arkleg.state.ar.us.

Meanwhile, we’re hoping all public school personnel are getting and spreading the word about the vastly different insurance plans that will be offered in 2015.

The good news is that participants should be able to select a plan that will be comparable in cost – with some increase, of course – to what they had last year. The more scary news is that, without paying close attention, it will be easy to sign up for a plan that could end up costing much, much more. particularly in terms of high deductibles.

The new plan names are Premium, Classic and Basic. The mistake will be to assume these are equivalent to the old Gold, Silver and Bronze. THEY ARE NOT. Participants would do best to approach them like the new creatures they are.


July 29, 2014

Next year’s insurance offerings for public school employees got one step closer to reality yesterday. The employee benefits subcommittee of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board unanimously recommended three new plans to the full board: premium, classic and basic. The board voted on them today, making only minor changes.

Here’s what they’ll look like:

· The premium plan will cost about $185 a month for individuals and $841 a month for family coverage. Participants would be responsible for an annual deductible of $1,000 with individual coverage and $2,000 with family coverage.

· The classic plan will cost about $45 a month for individuals and $350 a month for families. The annual deductible would be $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families.

· The basic plan will cost individuals about $11 for individual coverage and about $270 a month for families. Deductibles are $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for families.

The subcommittee did not recommend state contributions to health savings accounts for public school employees in order to keep deductibles lower for classic and basic plan participants. Even so, participants in those plans will be required to maintain health savings accounts.

Another recommendation says that school employees must see a doctor for a health care screening between Jan. 1, 2013 , and Nov. 1, 2014, or premiums will cost an extra $75 a month.

Let’s hope all school employees are educated about these options in time to make wise choices.




July 23, 2014

Emotions ran high last week as legislators started tackling long-term solutions to the still-precarious insurance plan. It was the first meeting of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force after several short-term fixes sailed through the special session.

The underlying tensions can be boiled down to, not surprisingly, money. Non-educators with ties to the state’s health coverage system feel that the state, at $160 million per year, contributes handsomely to public school employees’ health insurance. What’s more, they even feel employees pretty much pay their fair share in rates this year. (Not that that will keep rates from rising for many in 2015.)

But these same folks seem to doubt whether the school districts themselves hoist their fair load of the insurance burden.

School administrators, for their part, point out that there’s not a clearly defined line between a district’s dollars and the state’s dollars.

For instance, Marion School District deputy superintendent Jeff Altemus explained that school districts are unable to sell more goods or raise prices on widgets to bring in more money. In testimony late in last week’s Task Force meeting, Altemus reminded legislators that district funds largely come from the state’s collection of a community’s first 25 mils. So while school districts are the employers of public school employees, school districts’ source of increased funding is primarily determined by the legislature.

Here’s how the non-school people see it – and this argument is valid as well. The matrix sends funding to the schools on a per student basis. School districts pay the mandated $153 per month (about half the districts add more) only on the employees who actually enroll in health insurance – so school districts save on those who do not enroll.

Sen. Joyce Elliott is one of the legislators pushing for communities to do more. She has not specified whether that would be through adjustments in current school budgets, additional local millage increases or other sources of additional dollars.

Right now, the momentum at the Capitol definitely seems to be moving toward placing more of the insurance funding onus on the school districts. For example, one oft-mentioned alternative of late is to have districts purchase their own insurance plans. The Department of Education is spearheading a price check on that idea right now.

Those in the know realize that the price of insurance likely will be out of reach for many smaller districts, meaning they will not be able to offer insurance plans to their faculty and staff.

If that happens, it sets up a troubling scenario. Many employees will have to shop on the federal health insurance exchange, and school districts will have to pay the per-employee penalty for not offering insurance.

Fiscal distress? It may be unavoidable for many districts if this idea is put in place.



July 15, 2014

The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force bore down on the next phase of its work at today’s meeting. It was the first meeting after the special session, during which a number of short-term fixes were put in place to bolster the insurance plan for the next plan year.

After a self-congratulatory pat for actions thus far – "some teachers are going to have a lot more money to spend at home because of the recommendations” passed in the session – Task Force Chairman Sen. Jim Hendren outlined the group’s tasks for the immediate future.

The August meeting will take a hard look at the feasibility of combining the state employee and public school employee plans. Doing so might allow the one plan to meet an economy of scale that neither plan enjoys now. But issues arise because the two sets of employees are on different pay scales and work schedules and have different employers.

Employee Benefits Director Bob Alexander also hopes to gain some guidance on the issue of parity. The law says EBD and its board are to strive to achieve parity between the two systems, but he wants to know if that means both plans should offer the exact same benefits. That can’t be done with comparable costs, he said.

The September meeting will take up the issue of whether school districts should purchase their own insurance and the state system be abandoned completely. (We’ll take a look at the discussion around this idea in next week’s blog post.)

What the Task Force learned today is that the both systems are humming along fairly well at present.

The PSE plan had a $6 million deficit in June, which, Alexander explained, is to be expected because no state funds flow in while a number of year-end expenses flow out. The $6 million looks rosy when compared to last year’s $10 million deficit. Overall, the PSE fund is up $17 million for the year, compared with being $18 million in the hole this time last year.

The ASE plan gained $3 million in June and posts $12 million for the year.

No solid information about rates for the PSE plan was given as EBD’s board will not set those until its July 29 meeting.

But, in addition to wading through all the changes the reforms will bring about – exclusion of part-time workers, exclusion of spouses with access to insurance elsewhere, and others – the plan structure and names will be very different. No more Gold, Silver and Bronze plans. The options will be Premium, Classic and Basic, and they are not simply Gold, Silver and Bronze renamed. An employee who thinks they are could end up being out of a lot of money as he or she tries to meet the high deductibles on the Basic plan.

Legislators peppered Alexander with questions about how he was going to educate public school employees of all these major changes. His answers were less than satisfying – a sort of "pass the buck/the way we’ve always done it” approach. EBD will meet with school district human resource representatives and depend on them to educate all of their employees on the many changes in the system this year.

No wonder lack of communication from EBD has been one of public school employees’ main complaints about the health insurance system.


July 9, 2014

Superintendents and other administrators attending this week’s Arkansas Rural Education Association Summer Conference were strongly urged to be in Big Mac 1 on July 15.

That’s the date of the next meeting of the Legislative Task Force dealing with the public school insurance issue. The hottest issue? Bob Alexander of the Employee Benefits Division will be on hand to discuss rates for 2015.

The meeting will be the first of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force since the Special Session earlier this month. The short, three-day session resulted in significant reforms to the plans. The goal, of course, was to keep costs down as much as possible and make the plan viable overall – without dipping into the state pot to do so.

The interim report contains a complete list of the recommendations and actions taken thus far.

Some speakers at the conference voiced concern over costs for public employees in 2015, saying they feared the proposed changes would not help individual employees as much as suggested. They also wanted more representation on the board that oversees EBD than the new law allotted for public school employees.

They also urged school officials to closely watch what is done about FICA savings, as the law was written more loosely than superintendents expected.

Others talked about how to deal with part-time workers. Those individuals work less than 30 hours a week but are often vital to the operation of cafeterias, school bus routes and the like. Part-time employees have now been excluded from the plan with the thought that they can get insurance through the state’s private option, Arkansas’s version of the Affordable Care Act.

With this slate of changes in place, the Task Force will be turning its attention to other possible changes, ranging from implementing wellness plans to privatizing insurance for school districts. 

Meanwhile, everyone will have to keep in mind what happens come January, when a brand new set of legislators will renew the debate of whether to reauthorize the private option. Talk about your potential game changers!


July 1, 2014

The first step to transforming the public school employee health insurance system in Arkansas is just about complete. Both the House and Senate versions of the two bills containing several significant changes passed out of their respective chambers. Then, within minutes of adjournment of the House and Senate, they sailed through the House and Senate Insurance and Commerce Committees.

The changes that the companion laws will bring about include:

·       Excluding part-time (less than 30 hours per week) workers

·       Excluding spouses who have insurance available through their own employers

·       Verification of a dependent’s eligibility for insurance

·       Managing the bariatric surgery program to maintain fiscal viability

·       Adding more public school representation to the board governing the Employee Benefits Division.

The changes are those proposed by the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Task Force, which has been meeting at least monthly since last fall. The Task Force, which operates until June 15, 2015, will resume its meetings on July 15. Task Force leadership indicated this week that they will be investigating the possibility of "privatizing the system,” which apparently means having school districts purchase their own health insurance plans. Task Force Co-Chair Rep. Harold Copenhaver told the House that the Department of Education has been asked to have a small, medium and large school district each price insurance plans.

In reference to expected savings, Copenhaver told the House that the fiscal impact of the two bills soon-to-become-law would produce a minimum $5 million savings.

Rep. John Payton asked if the savings were not actually part of a shell game. For example, he said, wouldn't the savings for school districts and the Employee Benefits Division incurred by not insuring part-time employees become added costs to the state when they qualified for state subsidized coverage through the state’s private option.

In presenting SB 3 on the Senate floor, Sen. Jim Hendren reminded legislators that it was important to understand that failure to reform the program would mean that teachers would have to come up with an aggregate 35 percent more in premiums. He continued by explaining that the Task Force has come up with reforms to make the program solvent for a time, but not to fix it permanently.

Sen. Gary Stubblefield asked what group of people will suffer the most from these reforms. Hendren answered, "If you're asking where is the biggest change, the biggest change is for members of the Bronze plan." Bronze plan members will have the greatest increase in premiums, from $11 to $60. Hendren explained that originally, the Gold plan was overpriced because the Bronze plan was underpriced. But, he added, there's no one group of people that will suffer the most from the changes put forth in SB 3, because there are people in different categories on different plans.

In trying to determine exactly how much the health insurance program will cost, Sen. Jason Rapert commented, "So let’s be clear, that's an unknown, as to how much the state will pay." Hendren replied, "Do we know exactly? No, but that's what we pay these actuarial guys for, is their best guess."

SB 3 passed the Senate, 29-5 with one voting present.

SB 4 passed the Senate 25-10.

HB 1003 passed the House, 88-6.

HB 1004 passed the House, 90-5 with 2 voting present.

Both chambers will convene at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday to conclude voting.

 


June 30, 2014

The effectiveness of the backroom work before the session showed Monday as House and Senate versions of two bills aimed at producing savings in the school employee health insurance plan sailed through their respective Insurance and Commerce Committees.

The Second Extraordinary Session of the 89th General Assembly opened at 4 p.m. Monday afternoon with a ceremonial opening made even more special for the House, which met as a full body in the Old Statehouse Museum because of renovations at the State Capitol.Governor Mike Beebe limited the scope of the session to:

  • Finding increased funding for the Department of Corrections to pay for more prison beds.
  • Enacting legislation to make the public school health insurance plan financially solvent.
  • Possibly enacting changes to the state lottery scholarship laws.

The bills dealing with the public school employees’ health insurance plan were referred to the Senate and House Insurance and Commerce Committees, which met upon adjournment and 30 minutes after adjournment of the Joint Budget Committee.

The Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee considered SB 3 and SB4. SB3 concerns sustaining health insurance benefits for public school employees, as well as the makeup of the Public School Employees Health Insurance Board members. SB 4 deals with the insurance program's eligibility requirements.

(Link for SB3 http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2014S2/Pages/BillInformation.aspx?measureno=SB3)

(Link for SB4 http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2014S2/Pages/BillInformation.aspx?measureno=SB4)

Most of the discussion on SB 3 centered on clarification and explanation of cost to employees and who could receive benefits. Bronze plan members would see a significant premium increase, from $11 to $60 per month. But that would be somewhat alleviated through the now-required health savings account contributions.

Under the proposed legislation, the spouse of a public school employee is not eligible for coverage if that spouse has coverage through his or her own place of employment. Sen. Joyce Elliott asked if a spouse could be covered by the plan if "there is a life-changing circumstance that happens," which would otherwise leave the spouse uninsured.

Hendren replied that he understood that a spouse would only be excluded by being offered health insurance coverage through his or her own employer. Bob Alexander, executive director of the Employee Benefits Division, agreed that he did not see any gap in coverage occurring in such an instance.

SB 4, in defining eligibility, requires that a public school employee work an average of at least 30 hours per week during the school year. Sen. Johnny Key questioned what this meant for a school district's ability to modify employment positions, for instance combining an employee’s duties to that of both a bus driver and a cafeteria worker.

"This does not take away their ability to make changes within their district?" Key asked, to which Hendren replied, "Absolutely not."

On the House side of the building, Rep. Copenhaver presented HB1003 and HB1004 – duplicates of the Senate versions with reversed numbering – to the committee. He faced very few questions, mostly having to do with confusion on how the funding matrix works (it doesn’t dictate how to spend funds) before "do pass” motions were made. Both passed easily.

Tuesday’s Joint Education meeting is said to look at the issue of FICA savings during adequacy discussion, and the two bills from each side should advance to their respective chambers. Both the House and Senate are set to meet in full at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.


June 17, 2014

The voices of more and more teachers – and fellow public school employees – are joining the ongoing discussion about the proposed changes to the state’s health insurance plan.

In addition to testifying at last week’s Public School Employee Life and Health Insurance Task Force and Joint Education Committee meeting at the Capitol, the unofficial group spearheaded by Arkansas schoolteacher Shelley Smith also met with both gubernatorial candidates to express their concerns.

In addition to the fear of another hefty increase in insurance premiums, copays and deductibles, a peek at the AR School Employees Health Insurance Facebook page reveals a strong dissatisfaction with the state’s Employee Benefits Division.

Complaints include a lack of communication and information on the front end about health coverage options, failure to answer specific questions about claims and overall mismanagement of the plan’s funds.

"Through conversations with individuals and constant contact with the members of our Facebook group, I can tell you that I have not heard one positive opinion about EBD and its handling of our plans. Not one,” Smith wrote in a letter to the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force. She reiterated those sentiments during her testimony at the Capitol as well.

Legislators, we suspect, will be hearing more from this segment as the likely special session draws near.


June 10, 2014

All signs point to another special legislative session, possibly within the next three to four weeks. The goal? To keep the public school employee health insurance solvent without individual rates skyrocketing in 2015.

The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Legislative Task Force met with the Joint Meeting of the Senate and House Interim Committees on Education to catch members up to speed with their suggested changes as well as to answer their questions.

The Task Force distributed a copy of the draft legislation, which is just a few tweaks away from its final version, Task Force Chairman Sen. Jim Hendren said. He told legislators they would be seeing that last draft by tomorrow or the next day at the latest.

The proposed bill sets forth basically the same approaches as discussed at prior meetings, with a few changes:

  • Eliminating health insurance coverage for part-time employees, newly defined as employees working less than 30 hours per week. (Right now, this measure is intended for both the public school and state employee plans. Research has shown this will produce little savings from state plan, so the provision won’t be applied to that plan in the final draft.)
  • Verifying eligibility of dependents.
  • Excluding spouses who have access to health insurance elsewhere.
  • Giving the Employee Benefits Division authority make the bariatric surgery program more efficient for the plan (The language in the next draft will be specific to bariatric surgery, Hendren promised. Right now it refers to any program.)
  • Adding more education representation to the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board. (The current draft contains a number of changes from previous version. Before, the number of voting members was decreased from 14 to 11 by making three members non-voting participants. This version actually increases the number of members to 15 – all voting members. Another significant change is striking "classroom certified teacher” from the membership and putting in its place "public school employee.”
  • Requiring health savings accounts. (In earlier versions, this provision was to be funded by savings from excluding part-time workers. This proved too tricky, as lawyers advised the Task Force that they could not use the funding matrix to tell school districts how to spend funds. Plus, the administrative headache caused by ensuring the funds were spent in such a way would be huge. Now the draft bill states health insurance plan members must enroll in a health savings account).

The next draft will be sent to Gov. Beebe’s office as well. Once he hears there is sufficient support from the legislators, Beebe has said he will call a special session so the necessary legislative fixes can be addressed.

Toward the end of the meeting, the Committees and Task Force heard from a school district cafeteria manager about the hardship she will face if forced to pay more for insurance.

With a salary of $25,000, "I’m going to have to leave the job I love, and my kids, because of insurance,” the 18-year employee with the Conway School District said.

Hendren told school employees that it’s "people like you who we are focusing on” and that the desire of the Task Force is to make health insurance affordable. Still, he reminded them, state and public school employees aren’t the only sector dealing with rising health insurance costs.

Robinson’s testimony points to the tension between competing interests the Task Force has dealt with since day one. In keeping the plan solvent, is the Task Force working to help the state, EBD, the school districts or employees?

Along this vein, Sen. Joyce Elliott urged school employees, school districts and school board members to consider local obligations – i.e., a millage increase or other tax – to help fund a solution.

Hendren noted that the upcoming special session addresses the fixes that had to be made to keep rates from jumping dramatically for the 2015 plan year. The Task Force will continue its work through June 2015 to consider more long-term, structural solutions to the insurance program.

The next Task Force meeting is July 15.


May 14, 2014

The game-changing discussion about public school employees’ health insurance continues Tuesday at the Joint Senate and House Education Committee. The focus will be ensuring that potential insurance system reforms align with the state’s efforts to provide for an adequate education statewide.

Members of theState and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force will meet in conjunction with two legislative committees in Room A of the MAC Building in Capitol Mall (immediately behind the Capitol) at 9 a.m. The meeting, we’ve been told, could easily extend into the afternoon hours.


May 29, 2014

Whenever the Public School Life and Health Insurance Board or the legislative task force charged with making the insurance system solvent meet, the elephant in the room always seems to be the tenuous future of Arkansas’s private option.

But that elephant may be shrinking.

And, more than likely, recommendations the task force makes – and that the legislature ultimately acts on in a special session this summer – will be predicated on the assumption that the private option will continue.

John Brummett wrote about one telltale sign in his Arkansas Democrat-Gazette column on Tuesday, May 27. He questioned legislators at the Arkansas Rural Development Conference about the private option’s chances for reauthorization, and the vitriol of earlier months was lacking.

In fact several that he asked – including Sen. Jonathan Dismang, incoming Senate president pro tem, Sen. Linda Chesterfield, Rep. Greg Leding and Sen. Jim Hendren – indicated the chances were probable that reauthorization would occur.

On the national scene, more insurance companies are signing up to be part of the federal exchange, which means these companies are sensing that, at the national level at least, not only is the Affordable Care Act here to stay, but it makes good business sense to be a part of it.

It’ll be interesting to see just how big that "elephant” is by the time the 2015 regular legislative session rolls around.


May 20, 2014

A special session of the legislature to address teacher health insurance is almost certain this summer. That said, the task force charged with fixing the system has a few remaining issues to address before making final recommendations to the General Assembly.

Those issues go to the heart of the health plan’s funding structure. They will be acted upon at the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force’s meeting on June 10.

Specific issues include:

  • Assigning administration of school employees’ cafeteria and health savings plans to the state’s Employee Benefits Division (EBD). In addition, FICA savings that were before now held by the schools would go to EBD. The Task Force wanted input as to federal requirements around health savings plans and the definition of employers before taking action on this item.
  • Increasing the state’s contribution to both state employee and school employee health plans by $20 per employee. Sen. Linda Chesterfield remarked that, with costs rising continuously, it will be hard not to ask the state to increase contribution levels. Task Force chairman Sen. Jim Hendren wanted to reserve further discussion until the June meeting so the issue could be considered with the larger funding discussion.
  • Restructuring and reorganizing EBD and its board to add more representation of teachers, including rural school teachers on the overall board and various subcommittees.
  • Removing insurance funding from the foundation funding matrix used to determine the state’s financial support of schools. Removing an item from the foundation funding matrix has sometimes been feared as the start of a slippery slope. Hendren, however, called this step vital to future administration of the employee health insurance plan.


May 6, 2014

Get ready for another long – and important – meeting of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force next week.

The meeting time and location have been changed from the original afternoon-only schedule. The new time is 10 a.m. May 14 and the meeting has been moved to Committee Room A of the MAC Building.

The agenda for the May 14 meeting hasn’t been posted yet, but Task Force members are set to work through a number of proposed options for restructuring the Health Insurance plan. Undoubtedly, the meeting will include discussion of four sample pieces of legislation put forth by Task Force Chairman Sen. Jim Hendren. The proposed bills involved:

  • Creating a separate health insurance plan for retired educators
  • Allowing EBD to eliminate costly plan components
  • Stopping coverage for spouses who have access to health insurance elsewhere
  • Verifying that dependents are eligible for coverage
  • Changing the definition of full-time employee to one who performs 30 hours or more of service per week

The APSRC Insurance Center will cover the May 14 meeting and post a full summary on this site.


April 29, 2014

Click here for Notice of Room Change for Meeting on April 30 of the State & Public School Life & Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force


April 23, 2014

The pace is picking up for the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force.

After hearing last week’s reports from consultants on various cost-saving options for the health insurance plan, the Task Force has a number of meetings scheduled to consider and then act upon changes to create efficiencies in the system:

10 a.m. April 30, Room 171, State Capitol. Members are to bring all proposed changes with supporting data to present at this meeting. No action will be taken, according to Chairman Jim Hendren.

1:30 p.m. May 14, Room 171, State Capitol. Members will vote on proposals.

1:30 p.m. June 10, Room 171, State Capitol. This meeting will likely concern the report that the Task Force must submit at the end of June.

 


April 16, 2014

Consultants delivered some good news to the Task Force that is looking for solutions for the cash-strapped public school health insurance plan – it's possible to save as much as $156 million for the state while reducing the aggregate cost to employees.

But it won’t necessarily be that easy. To get there will likely require changes in state statute, not to mention agreement on approach.

The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force, meeting for a four-hour meeting today at the Little Rock Marriott Hotel, was joined by about 100 teachers, education association executives, superintendents and others to hear results from its consultant’s analysis.

For the past several months, Continuous Health has been feeding Arkansas data into its CHROME Compass modeling system. After some data cleaning, a close look at the information revealed that:

  • 80,718 work in Arkansas public schools
  • 61,903 of those work 30-plus hours a week
  • 57,747 are participating in one of the three offered health insurance plans (48 percent on the Gold Plan, 9 percent on the Silver plan and 43 percent on the Bronze plan)
  • 21,702 waive coverage
  • 1,269 are ineligible for coverage

The Affordable Care Act has placed parameters around health care plans for the first time, Continuous Health consultant Eric Helman reminded the Task Force. They are:

  • Fair access (meaning all employees working 30 or more hours a week should have access to medical coverage)
  • Acceptable Health Coverage (meaning essential health care services are covered at a minimum of 60 percent of the cost)
  • Affordable Contributions (defined as no more than 9.5 percent of an employee’s adjusted household income)

Helman said Arkansas's public school employee health plan "doesn’t have an ACA problem,” as it does not need to change to meet those requirements. But it does have an ACA opportunity, he said, in that creatively incorporating ACA coverage for eligible public school employees could provide a nice piece to the puzzle of solving the funding crisis.

Helman suggested 10 separate but frequently overlapping approaches to revamping the public school health insurance plan. (Available in the report accessed through the link below.)

About $36 million in savings, he said, could be realized by changing the state’s definition of full-time school employees to the ACA’s definition of 30 hours per week. This is much easier said than done as several laws define full-time public school employees as workers putting in even fewer hours, including one that says all school bus drivers are to be considered full-time employees. Employers do not have to offer health insurance to part-time employees, making those uninsured employees eligible for possibly less expensive plans on the federal insurance marketplace.

Another significant savings, Helman said, could be had by creating a separate health insurance plan for retirees. Right now retirees are lumped into the three-sizes-fit-all plans with active employees (though retirees pay full price until age 65). A separate plan could be designed that would serve that population more efficiently and effectively, Helman said.

Significant savings could also be garnered by examining documentation of all dependents. Helman said that, nationally, 5 to 12 percent of insured dependents aren’t actually eligible for coverage.

Helman also recommended changing the pay structure for families. A lot of the growth in the state's public school employee plan, he said, came from spouses who had access to health coverage elsewhere but could obtain it less expensively through the public school employee plan.

Chairman Hendren told members to come to the Task Force’s April 30 meeting (Room 171, State Capitol; time to be announced) with specific recommendations for restructuring the plan. No action on any of the recommendations will be taken until the Task Force’s May 14 meeting, he said.

That would allow time for the likely special session of the legislature that will need to be called to enact necessary statutory changes, Hendren said. That could happen as early as mid-summer.

All materials from today’s meetings are available at http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2014F/Pages/MeetingDetailsPopupPage.aspx?meetingId=21778&CalType=ME&List=Meetings&btnok=nook


April 8, 2014

Next week’s gathering of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force promises to be the most interesting so far. In fact, much of the Task Force’s work until now has been leading up to the hypothesis testing that will occur during the session, which is set for 8 a.m. April 16 at the Marriott Hotel.

Eric Helman with consultant CHROME Compass will present the firm’s report (estimated to take about an hour) and then respond to questions and facilitate follow-up discussion for the rest of the morning.

For the past few months, CHROME Compass has been working with Arkansas entities such as the state Employee Benefits Division and actuarial consultant Osborn, Carreiro and Associates to collect as much data as possible to feed into its modeling software.

Now that the basic ingredients are there, the CHROME Compass software will be able to model many different proposed scenarios and predict effects on various components. And each of thosed proposed scenarios will reflect potential changes to the school employee health insurance system.

For instance, some of the scenarios suggested through Task Force discussions thus far include:

· How much of an increase in employees’ premiums can be added before enrollment drops to dangerous levels?

· How much savings could be realized if bariatric surgeries were no longer covered?

· What would be the effect of only having one plan – the "Bronze Level” plan – available to employees?

· What would result if school districts were required to help pay for insurance coverage for their employees, whether the employees opted into the system or not?

The answers will be telling. After all, the savings and/or additional dollars to fix the school employee health insurance system are going to have to come from somewhere.


April 1, 2014

Yesterday was it. At 11:59:59 p.m., the first open enrollment period for uninsured persons to obtain healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act ended.

And it ended with a bang. The controversial act, made optional to states, looks like it will meet initial expectations for expanded health care coverage, despite an extremely rocky start caused by a malfunctioning website.

Insiders with the national government were quoted this morning as saying that the goal of expanding health care coverage to 7 million Americans will be obtained when the final numbers are tallied.

And, in Arkansas, while the final count won’t be in for a few days, so far 106,000 have signed up through the Private Option (available to people who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level) and another 33,500 through the federal Marketplace at healthcare.gov (these are folks making 139 percent or more of the poverty level who are not insured through an employer or government program.)

Continuation of the state’s unique Private Option, which uses federal Medicaid dollars to purchase coverage from private providers, promises to be a big issue in races across Arkansas this year. The Private Option, which narrowly survived the 2014 fiscal session of the Arkansas Legislature, has to be approved every year by a three-fourths vote in both the Senate and the House.

Even so, last week’s discussion of the Private Option at the joint sessions of the House and Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor committees exhibited a deeper level of questioning into the actual workings of the two systems. Perhaps it was a subtle indication of a recognition that expanded health insurance coverage is likely to stick around.


March 18, 2014

We’re under the two-week mark for many Arkansans to sign up for subsidized health insurance through the state health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, as the last day to do so is March 31.

Therefore, school employees who do not work enough hours to be covered under the school district’s plan may want to explore coverage options sooner rather than later.

The deadline is set for uninsured Arkansans in households with total income ranging from $15,857 to $45,960 for single-member households or from $32,500 to $94,200 for families of four.

The marketplace with plan options is available atwww.arhealthconnector.org. Assistance may also be sought from insurance agents or by calling (855) 372-1084.

To sign up, individuals will need:

  1. Social security number/document number for legal immigrant
  2. Employer and income information for each household member
  3. Policy numbers for any current health insurance plans
  4. Completed insurance coverage form for employers offering insurance a household member could be eligible for

Individuals in single-member households with a total income of $15,856 or less or in households of four with a total income of $32,499 or less most likely qualify for Arkansas private option and will be able to sign up for insurance at no monthly cost. The website to do this is www.access.arkansas.gov.

A video outlining the steps to gain coverage is available from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families athttp://www.aradvocates.org/only-20-days-left-to-enroll-in-health-marketplace/.

So far, more than 137,000 Arkansans have been approved for coverage in the state’s expanded Medicaid coverage, according to the Department of Human Services.


March 11, 2014

When the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force meets today, one piece of the puzzle will be filled.

Knowing that the state’s Private Option version of the Affordable Healthcare Act continues (for this year, at least, as some legislators have promised to try and brush it off the books when the General Assembly gathers again in January 2015) will make it easier to for Task Force members and their consultants to picture how any changes in school employees’ health insurance will work in concert with the federal plan.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a bit of irony in the legislature’s actions around the Private Option.

Consider that a good number of legislators on the Task Force – and in the legislature as a whole – have knocked the state’s Employee Benefits Division for not communicating well enough with state plan participants to keep enrollment numbers up. EBD is hiring a new communication manager in response to that criticism, in fact.

Meanwhile, and this is the ironic part, legislators used this year’s fiscal session to pass special language that would push the mute button on information about the Private Option for potential participants.

The legislature put forth the language that limits outreach and promotion of the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace. Neither the Department of Human Services Division of Medical Services, the Department of Health nor the Insurance Department is allowed to "allocate, budget, expend, or utilize” government funds to advertise, promote or encourage enrollment in the plan.

As the Task Force has voiced, people don’t know what to enroll in when it comes to health insurance – or even if they can enroll – without adequate communication about options.

Then again, that was the legislature’s intention, despite the fact that Arkansas has to spend no money for the expanded coverage right now and, at the costliest point, will receive $9 in federal money for every $1 of state funds. That’s better than the Medicaid match we’ve been receiving for years.


March 6, 2014

The agenda is now posted for Tuesday’s meeting of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force, and it looks to be another information-packed session.

The Task Force, while still in the information gathering phase of its work, is getting closer to looking at policy revisions for the school employee health insurance plan.

In fact, the proposal put forth by Sen. David Sanders to the General Assembly last week is one example of possible changes coming down the pike.

Sen. Sanders’ bill, introduced in the Special Language Subcommittee, would have transferred school districts’ FICA savings to a special state fund that would supplement the Employee Benefits Division budget for the school employee health insurance plan.

Several school district superintendents showed up at the Capitol to object to the change, which could have cost many thousand dollars for some districts. Legislators referred the bill to the Task Force for further consideration – a good move as it can now be considered as a piece of what is likely to be a multi-faceted solution.

And, no doubt, a solution is needed, as a $70 million shortfall is already predicted by EBD for the 2015 school employee health insurance plan year.

But, back to this coming Tuesday’s agenda:

· The Task Force’s two consultants – Osborn, Carreiro and Associates and Collier Insurance – will provide updates of their work. The former provides actuarial and other guidance, while the latter will use Arkansas data to perform modeling of insurance plan outcomes based on different scenarios. (The Task Force’s April meeting will feature demonstrations of the modeling.)

· Bob Alexander and Doug Shackelford of EBD will discuss the division’s case management process. The effectiveness of EBD’s case management came under fire after a special report by the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee released in February. The report pointed to several large claims that the committee found could have been minimized with better guidance from EBD to the patients.

· Alexander and Shackelford will then discuss EBD’s process for subrogation, which is the process for pursuing payment by responsible third parties.

· The two EBD leaders will then discuss the state’s coverage of bariatric surgeries for state and public school employees. The lap-band surgeries, performed to help patients lose weight, are covered under state law. The value of the surgeries has been questioned by legislators on the Task Force, who want to know if the expense of the surgeries has been mitigated by savings in expenses associated with weight-related health problems such as diabetes.

Tuesday’s Task Force meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. in Room 171 of the State Capitol.


February 27, 2014

Superintendents took notice of Senator David Sanders’ amendment proposed for the Department of Finance and Administration’s funding bill – HB 1045 –and no wonder.

If passed, the resulting bill would punch significant holes in school district budgets beginning in 2015. For example, consider these numbers: $400,000 from Pulaski County Special School District, $250,000 from Conway School District and $54,000 from Greenbrier School District.That’s how much money these districts would be required to send to the state for a trust fund that would be used to minimize health insurance premiums for public school employees.

Sanders amendment, brought up in this morning’s Special Language Subcommittee meeting, will not be acted on during the fiscal session but was instead referred to the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force.

Sanders said the amendment was an attempt to streamline school districts’ offerings of health savings accounts and cafeteria plans by putting administration of the plans under the Employee Benefits Division of DF&A, which already controls public school employees’ life and health insurance plans.

He said the amendment also was an attempt to "start aligning necessary components [of health insurance plan administration] for the express purpose of offering reasonable and affordable health insurance to our most prized public servants, our teachers.”

The amendment would mean $2 million to $3 million toward funding the $71 million shortfall EBD is facing with the public school employee health insurance plan in 2015. Rest assured, it would be the first of many significant changes needed to shore up the system.

Changes, according to Special Language Subcommittee Chair Jonathan Dismang, are surely on the horizon, as he made clear he believes the legislature has no intention of providing a one-time bail out of the public school employee health plan like it did during a special legislative session last fall.

While the amendment was not acted on today, it should serve as a resounding warning that this issue is picking up steam. Stakeholders need to pay attention and, ideally, play constructive roles if they don’t want to be surprised by what happens over the next year or so.

Unfortunately, this seems to be another of those sad situations where what’s good for teachers is not necessarily beneficial for school districts. And we have to remember to think about the long-term effects on students, as well. But, if everyone works together to find a workable solution, maybe the outcome will be a happy one.

The next Task Force meeting, by the way, is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. March 11 in Room 171 of the State Capitol.

As one school district administrator told us today, "expect to start seeing us there.


February 19, 2014

The State Public School Life & Health Insurance Task Force meeting that had been rescheduled for Feb. 18 at the Arkansas State Capitol was postponed again. The meeting – now rescheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 24, again in Room 171 – was postponed last time because of snow. This time it was deferred because of what was expected to be a lengthy session in the House of Representatives.

The House, however, adjourned shortly after an announcement that the Task Force meeting had been called off, following Representatives’ rejection of the reauthorization of funding to continue Arkansas’ compromise to a Medicaid expansion.

The vote on the reauthorization of funding for the "private option” was 70-27, five short of the required three-fourths of the 100-member House, which could mean the loss of $89 million of federal funding associated with Arkansas’s participation in the Affordable Care Act.


February 18, 2014

This could be a very big week at the State Capitol as far as the Private Option is concerned. The Private Option, of course, is Arkansas’s unique version of the Affordable Care Act.

The House is scheduled to bring the appropriation bill up for a vote today, with additional votes planned for Wednesday and Thursday if they are needed to pass the legislation.

"Right now, my plan is to pass it,” House Speaker Davy Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (which insists on calling the Arkansas model "the so-called private option.”)

Senate President Pro Tempore Michael Lamoureux has promised that the Senate will take up its version of the appropriation bill as soon as it passes the House – as early as Wednesday, in fact, if the House does indeed pass its version today. Word is, though, that the Senate is still one vote shy of the 27 needed to pass the appropriation. The quick action indicates there may be some movement behind the scenes, though.

At stake, according to Gov. Beebe, is more than the loss of the $89 million in federal funding associated with the state’s participation in the Affordable Care Act, which promises to deliver a hard punch to the state’s budget.

Beebe has pointed to the 100,000 or so newly-covered Arkansans who will have health insurance coverage ripped away from them if the legislature fails to appropriate the funding to pay for the Private Option. What’s more, there seems to be no support for a viable plan to either replace the funding or to insure healthcare coverage for the Arkansans who will lose it.

Some of those Arkansans very likely are part-time employees of Arkansas’s public schools who are enjoying insurance for the first time.

Speaking of public schools, APSRC will be covering today’s Public School Health and Life Insurance Legislative Task Force meeting. Be sure to check back here for a summary of it tomorrow.


February 11, 2014

The Public School Employee Life and Health Insurance Legislative Task Force will hold its next meeting on Feb. 18. That’s a rescheduled session, as snow forced cancellation of the Task Force’s Feb. 4 meeting.

Dates have been set for the following two meetings as well: March 11 and April 15.

All meetings will be held in Room 171 of the State Capitol.

The Feb. 18 meeting will occur during the second week of the General Assembly’s fiscal session. As such, it will begin as soon as both the House and the Senate have adjourned from their afternoon sessions. Being early in the session, the Task Force should be able to get going and also complete its agenda before too late in the afternoon.

The hot topic for the 2014 fiscal session, of course, is whether the Private Option – Arkansas’s version of the Affordable Care Act – will be appropriated for the 2015 fiscal year. If it’s not, Gov. Beebe and others warn, it will punch big holes in the Governor’s proposed budget as $89 million in federal contributions will be axed. One likely result will be higher tuitions next year at state colleges and universities.

And, of course, if the expanded health care coverage afforded by the Private Option disappears, it will have an impact on any solution for public school employee health insurance the legislature eventually passes as well.


February 5, 2014

When Gov. Mike Beebe spoke to the Political Animals Club in Little Rock last week, his sole topic was the "private option,” Arkansas’s innovative plan for implementing the Affordable Care Act.

The plan, which now means health care coverage for nearly 100,000 Arkansans who had none, faces a perilous future as the Arkansas General Assembly gathers for its 2014 financial session next week.

The private option, which funds Medicaid expansion by using federal funds to buy private coverage for all but the most medically fragile (they are placed in the traditional Medicaid plan) barely squeaked past the needed 75 percent vote in both the House and Senate.

Whether that 75 percent vote will be there this year for the needed appropriation – yes, funding for the private option has to be reauthorized each year – is questionable as the Senate seems to have lost two of its "yay” votes.

In addition to proclaiming that the private option is still alive, here are some of the main points Gov. Beebe stressed to the 200 or so Political Animals:

  • The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. It will be here whether Arkansas maintains the private option or not. Yet, if our state chooses not to participate, our taxpayers are still contributing dollars to it. He likened it to paying the federal gasoline tax at every trip to the gas pump, yet refusing to accept federal money to pay for highways.
  • Cutting off the newly issued insurance to the nearly 100,000 Arkansans who have signed up for coverage would make hypocrites of many as it would be reneging on a promise, much like many accused President Obama doing when they found their policies denied because their insurance plans did not meet the new coverage requirements.
  • By not accepting the federal funds, Arkansas will be out around $89 million. Hospitals (such as UAMS, projected to lose $28 million alone if the private option disappears) across the state will feel the most pain, but other entities, i.e., higher education, will feel the sting of reduced funding as well.

What happens at the Capitol over the next few weeks will no doubt impact the direction taken by the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Legislative Task Force, and therefore the future of the public school employees health insurance system.

Speaking of the system, Gov. Beebe last week also appointed these members to the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board:

Bob Boyd, Little Rock

  • Katrina Burnett, Jacksonville
  • Janis Harrison, Little Rock
  • Dr. Andrew Kumpuris, Little Rock
  • Shelby McCook, Sherwood
  • Dr. Joe Thompson, Little Rock
  • Dr. Tony Thurman, Cabot

These are new positions and expire Dec. 1, 2017.


February 4, 2014

Today's State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force meeting has been cancelled.


January 29, 2014

The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force will continue its work of information gathering next week.

The Task Force gathers for its fourth meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4. The meeting will be in Room 171 of the State Capitol.

Here’s what on tap:

  • Bob Alexander, director of the Employee Benefits Division, will provide an update on the activities of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board. There shouldn't be much activity to report as, you’ll remember, the board was dismantled by the legislature during last fall’s special legislative session. It’s still defunct as of this writing, but look for an announcement of its revival from the Governor’s office by the end of this week.
  • Audit will be presentingSpecial Report – Arkansas State and Public School Employees Health Benefits – Employee Benefits Division – Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. This report won’t become public until the day of the meeting, we’re told.
  • Mark Riley, Arkansas Pharmacy Association, will discuss school employee-related issues concerning prescription drug benefits.
  • Alexander and deputy director Doug Shelton will continue a discussion from the last meeting regarding statutory requirements impacting the operations of the Employee Benefits Division.

Again, APSRC will provide a summary of the meeting on this site within 24 hours. We want to provide you all the information you need to stay on top of this important issue.


January 21, 2014

Now that the bulk of the federal government’sHealthcare.gov website glitches have been fixed, enrollment activity is picking up quite a bit.

Here are some of the latest national numbers:

  • 2.2 million people had signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act by the end of December 2013
  • 1.8 million of those actually signed up during December (five times the number that signed up during October and November)

And, as for Arkansas:

  • More than 71,000 people had signed up for health insurance by Jan. 2, 2014
  • About 90 percent of the Arkansans who have enrolled in private, Medicaid insurance plans have incomes below the federal poverty level and therefore will not incur any out-of-pocket expenses for their health insurance coverage

What’s more, Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison reports that the bulk of the new enrollees in the state’s private, Medicaid funded plans are under the age of 50:

  • 77 percent are younger than 50
  • More than half are younger than 40

In addition to younger enrollees tending to be healthier (one thing the state’s school employee health insurance system could use, by the way), younger participants will have more time to change the way they use the health care system.

This is important because a recent study out of Oregon, which implemented an expanded Medicaid system in 2008, showed that emergency room use by new enrollees actually increased in the first 18 months.

While conventional wisdom would have it that access to preventive care would diminish the need for ER visits, some health care experts contend that it takes time for health system usage patterns to change. Therefore, it may take some folks a while to seek health care earlier rather than later and even more time for healthy check-ups to become routine.

Enrolling people at a younger age, however, should make it more likely for that change in behavior to occur.


January 14, 2014

Better communication to school employees ... that was the recent request – no, the demand – from Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-LR) to the directors of the Employee Benefits Division (EBD).

This isn’t the first time Chesterfield, a retired educator herself, has pointed to a lack of clear guidance regarding insurance options, especially for school districts' non-certified employees. And, it's safe to say, it likely won't be the last.

Better information, she says, will result in more employees opting to enroll in the insurance plan – a good thing, because more enrollees, particularly healthy ones, will help stabilize the system.

Chesterfield's charge is one that EBD has taken to heart. At the Jan. 7 meeting of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Task Force, EBD deputy director Doug Shackelford informed legislators that the division was in the process of hiring a communication manager. In fact, he said, the division was already sorting through a number of applications from experienced public relations and news media professionals, so someone should be operating in that position reasonably soon.

Even so, it will be a while before EBD has a concrete insurance plan for public school employees to explain to school folks. EBD director Bob Alexander let legislators know that EBD needed guidance for issuing the 2015 plan options by late spring as board approval will be necessary in June.

Task Force Chair Sen. Jim Hendren is well aware of this deadline and is focused on seeing to it that the Task Force works at a quick albeit responsible pace.

That will give EBD’s new communication manager some time to thoroughly understand a complex system and issue, and, ideally, to initiate research into the best communication vehicles and channels by which to reach various groups of school employees with information they can use to inform their healthcare coverage choices.


January 7, 2014

Perhaps the harshest news for creators and supporters of the Affordable Care Act in early 2014 is the low number of healthy young individuals who have signed up through the website for health insurance. Those premiums from healthy people are needed to support the program if it is to succeed.

Interestingly, though, the situation parallels Arkansas’s problems with its health insurance plan for public school employees. The self-insured plan doesn’t have enough healthy members to support the claims that are made by its participants. The plan for state employees, on the other hand, is viable because positions are funded with the state’s share of the premium regardless of whether the positions are filled or not.

That may not be the answer for the school employees’ plan, but something no doubt will have to change in the plan's structure for it to succeed in the future.

The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force will meet again today in its effort to find a solution. Today’s session will focus largely on the statutory requirements that impact the operations of the Employee Benefits Division.

The Task Force will also discuss needs for other consultants to help it in its work.

The meeting will begin at 3 p.m. in Room 171 of the State Capitol. APSRC will post a summary of the meeting by tomorrow.


January 2, 2014

"There’s a great event out there in the marketplace that is going to have a dramatic effect on your (health insurance) plan.”

That’s the warning the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Task Force heard regarding the impact of federal health care reform at its last meeting. Fortunately, the legislators on the Task Force seemed to take it to heart.

In fact, one of the Task Force’s next actions will be to hire a consulting firm to help model how the new – and still-changing – federal Affordable Care Act will effect the state’s sure-to-be-altered insurance program for public school employees.

Eric Helman with ContinuousHealth told the Task Force in December that health care reform is to employer-provided benefits what Y2K was to technology: a path to sustainable satisfaction.

It’s a much-needed path at that, he explained, as the cost of benefits are growing at a faster rate than any other element in a school district’s budget.

The Affordable Care Act changes the game, Helman said, in that it dictates to whom school districts must offer health insurance, what that health insurance must look like, and how much it can cost. Plus, penalties will eventually come into play if the law is not followed.

Arkansas obviously needs to find a "path to sustainable satisfaction” for insuring public school employees. The state obviously doesn’t have that path right now, as participation in the public school health insurance plan is not enough to sustain it. What’s more, the plan’s history has been marked by a series of financial crises and state-funded bailouts.

The Task Force seems set on changing that history, and its move to ensure that the state’s program will succeed within the larger context of health care reform is a smart one.


December 17, 2013

You may not realize that the present system for funding for public school employees’ health and life insurance goes back to the 1995 legislative session.

Before that, the General Assembly appropriated about $45 million to the Arkansas Department of Education annually for the plan. The State Board of Education would set the state contribution level each year based on the amount of funds available. The amount school employees paid could not exceed the amount state employees were required to pay.

But two big changes occurred during the 1995 legislative session to alter that system.

First, a new, per student funding formula – "state equalization funding aid” – was put in place to fund school districts. Insurance funding lost its status as a separate line item; rather, it was lumped in with the overall equalization funding. School districts became responsible for paying the health insurance for eligible employees. Meanwhile, the state’s appropriation for public school employee health insurance dropped from $43 million to $480,500. The lower amount was intended to cover the state contribution only for employees in education cooperatives, vocational centers and Department of Correction schools.

The second thing that happened was the creation of the Arkansas State Employee/Public School Personnel Board. The new board was created to oversee the state employees’ and the public school employees’ plans, which remained separate. The State Board of Education at that time remained responsible for setting school district contribution rates.

The full history of the programs since then can be found in a summary (http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/education/K12/InitiativesDevelopmentsDocs/2013_Memo_Teacher Health Insurance Timeline.pdf) written by Nell Smith of the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research, who appeared before the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force this week.


December 10, 2013

The tentative agenda for next week’s meeting of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force has been posted. This will be the first meeting after the Task Force’s organizational meeting in October.

On the agenda are:

  • A review of the history of the State and Public Employee Health Insurance Program presented by Nell Smith with the Bureau of Legislative Research. (A written history by the Bureau is available under the list of Resources on this site.)
  • An update on the program by Employee Benefits director Bob Alexander and Deputy Director Doug Shackelford.
  • A discussion of actuarial services available to the Task Force by Steve Osborn and Jody Carriero with Osborn, Carriero and Associates, Inc.
  • A presentation of the ContinuousHealth Reform Optimizer and Management Environment Impact Modeler by Eric T. Helman of ContinuousHealth, LLC.

If you are not able to make this meeting, remember that APSRC will post a summary of it in this space within 24 hours.


December 2, 2013

Supposedly, healthcare.gov, the federal site for persons to enroll in healthcare coverage made available by the Affordable Care Act, is running much more smoothly. Proof that it is is that number of Americans signing up for insurance is increasing dramatically.

Problems, however, are still being encountered by some in Arkansas.

Therefore, school districts with part-time employees who might benefit from the new coverage, can alert those individuals to one of the Arkansas Insurance Department’s enrollment events. Outreach workers will be on hand to help persons learn about and sign up for coverage, either through the website, or, if necessary, with paper forms.

The event schedule is:

Dec. 4: 1:30 – 5 p.m. at The Venue, 117 W. Main, in Walnut Ridge

Dec. 5: noon to 6 p.m. at Baxter Regional Medical Center. 624 Hospital Drive, in Mountain Home

Dec. 7: 9 a.m. to noon at St. John AME Church, 1115 W. Pullen Street, in Pine Bluff

Dec. 10: noon to 6 p.m. at White County Regional Medical Center, 3214 E. Race Ave., in Searcy

Dec. 11: noon to 6 p.m. at Conway Regional Medical Center, 2302 College Ave., in Conway.

Dec. 12: noon to 6 p.m. at Hempstead Hall, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, 2500 S. Main St., in Hope

Dec. 13: noon to 6 p.m., at the Main Library, 100 S. Rock St., in Little Rock

Dec. 14: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hispanic Center, 311 W. Huntington Ave., in Jonesboro


November 26, 2013

This is the final week for the current makeup of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board, as the state legislature enacted the board’s dissolution effective Nov. 30, 2013.

During the First Extraordinary Session of2013, legislators squarely placed the blame for the 2013 public school health insurance crisis at the feet of the board. Act 6 of the special session states: "The board has failed to fulfill their mission and provide a stable and actuarially sound system of health insurance benefits for public school employees … .”

In addition to dissolving the board, the legislation added two additional members to the original 12. The new board will comprise the following members, all appointed by the Governor:

  • A state employee who is eligible to participate in the insurance program
  • A certified classroom teacher
  • The Insurance Commissioner or his or her designee
  • The Commissioner of Education or his or her designee
  • The Director of the Department of Finance and Administration or his or her designee
  • Three members who are engaged in employee benefits management or risk management in private industry
  • Two additional member positions that shall be filled by a retired teacher and by a retired state employee
  • One public school administrator
  • The Executive Director of the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy or his or her state employee pharmacist designee
  • The Director of Health Facility Services of the Department of Health or his or her designee
  • One member who is a licensed health care provider

Governor Beebe will likely appoint a new board, subject to approval by the State Senate, as early as Dec. 1.


November 19, 2013

The topic of school employee health insurance surfaced several times at last week’s APSRC Fall Conference, and here are some of the tidbits we heard:

  • Senator Johnny Key told the group attending the Legislative Panel that Arkansas can’t afford to find itself in the same spot next year in terms of health insurance for school employees. But, he added, that’s exactly what will happen without a long-term fix. He said he was pleased that the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force had been created to look for those long-term solutions.
  • John Starling with JTS Financial issued the same warning during the conference’s Arkansas Health Care Update session. Starling even went so far as to suggest some drastically different outcomes that could occur, including the possibilities that:
    • The Employees Benefit Division (EBD) would not offer public school employee health insurance, instead allowing school districts to find and sponsor health insurance plans on their own
    • That EBD would change plan options, likely eliminating the Gold plan.

All this goes to show what a pivotal this year could be as the legislature and others work toward a solution for this problem.


November 12, 2013

Are you confused by all the chaos surrounding health insurance these days? Maybe even overwhelmed? There’s a lot going on, no doubt:

  • Even after a $43 million Band-aid applied to the State Public School Health and Life Insurance System this fall, legislative meetings have already begun to determine how to stabilize the system for the long term.
  • Add to that the options – and the incredibly rocky introduction – of the Affordable Care Act, and the loads of information (and misinformation) keep on coming.

The Arkansas Public School Resource Center has created this portal to help you understand, keep up with and act responsibly on the issue.

Whether you are a superintendent making insurance policy decisions for your school district or a school employee looking for the best option for your family, we want this to the be the place you can come to find answers.

APSRC will not be advocating any position or course of action. We simply want to provide you with the most complete information possible so you can make informed decisions.

On the site you will find:

  • This blog, updated weekly to note significant events and point your attention to new resources
  • State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force meeting summaries
  • Upcoming Task Force meeting dates
  • A Frequently Asked Questions section
  • A form for you to submit questions
  • A list of links to credible sources of information
  • The APSRC calendar updated with information pertaining to public school insurance-related meetings, presentations and events

We look forward to your feedback and hope you benefit from this service!


PSE Insurance FAQs


Legislative Task Force Meetings

Task Force Members

March 11, 2014

February 24, 2014

February 19, 2014

January 7, 2014

December 17, 2013

October 25, 2013


Legislative Task Force Rules

State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force Rules


Insurance Information Resources

The Arkansas Public School Resource Center wants to help you access the information you need to make responsible decisions regarding health insurance, both on the individual level, and on a larger policy level as well.

Below are links to some helpful sites with information regarding Arkansas’s public school insurance as well as the Affordable Care Act.

Public School Insurance in Arkansas Sites

Health Insurance Plan Information

http://portal.arbenefits.org/Pages/default.aspx

Portal to ARBenifits for Arkansas State and Public School Plan Members including plan information in English and Spanish, forms, newsletters and other information.

http://portal.arbenefits.org/Benefits/C1021%20-%202013%20-%202014%20Complete%20Printable%20SPD,%20Version%20I.pdf

ARBenefits 2014 Plan Summary for State and Public School Employees and Retirees.

http://www.healthadvantage-hmo.com/members/pse/pseGold.aspx

Health Advantage Gold Plan information for public school employees 2014.

https://www.qualchoice.com/members/ar-state-public/ar-school-employees.aspx

Qualchoice Silver Plan 2014 information for Public School Employees 2014 public school employees.

http://www.healthadvantage-hmo.com/members/pse/pseBronze.aspx

Health Advantage Bronze Plan information for public school employees 2014.

Health Insurance Issue and Legislative Action

http://officeforedpolicy.com/2013/10/23/recap-of-the-special-session-on-public-school-employee-insurance/

University of Arkansas’s Office of Education Policy’s recap of the 2013 special legislative session dealing with public school health employment issue.

http://www.aeaonline.org/presidents-post

Arkansas Education Association’s president’s message regarding the Arkansas legislature’s $43 million supplement to fund the 2014 public school insurance program.

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2013S1/Acts/Act5.pdf

Act 5 of the 2013 Special Legislative Session, which appropriated $43 million in state funds to the public school employee health insurance program

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2013S1/Acts/Act3.pdf

Act 3 of the 2013 special legislative session creating the 12-member State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force, which will address the long-term systemic needs to bolster the school employee health insurance program

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2013S1/Acts/Act1.pdf

Act 1 of the 2013 special legislative session, which shifts about $16.3 million from the state’s school facilities fund savings to the school employee health insurance program beginning in fiscal 2015

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2013S1/Acts/Act2.pdf

Act 2 of the 2013 special legislative session, which cuts professional development funding from $54 per student to $32.50 per student to produce about $10 million in savings beginning in fiscal 2015

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2013R/Acts/Act517.pdf

Act 517 of the 2013 Regular Legislative Session raising the school minimum school contribution for health insurance participants 50 $150 from $131.

Affordable Care Act Sites

http://hbe.arkansas.gov/

Website of the organization that manages and implements the Health Insurance Marketplace in Arkansas; the site provides a link to the government portal where Arkansans can buy insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

https://www.healthcare.gov/

Portal to sign up for health insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

http://www.aradvocates.org/assets/PDFs/Health/ACA-Overview.pdf

Flier produced by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families with information and graphics relaying information concerning the Affordable Care Act in Arkansas

http://familiesusa2.org/assets/pdfs/health-reform/helping-families/Arkansas.pdf

Report by Families U.S.A. concerning the Affordable Care Act’s impact on Arkansas family budgets

http://uark.libguides.com/content.php?pid=518263&sid=4292232

Various videos regarding the Affordable Care Act in Arkansas

http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/bystate/ar.html

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services site promoting the Affordable Care Act’s benefits Arkansas and Arkansans

http://www.arkansaseducationlaw.com/2013/01/15/what-the-affordable-care-act-means-to-you/

Blog entry by education lawyer Jennifer Flinn about the Affordability Care Act’s impact on school districts and school employees

Miscellaneous Resources

http://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/1090

Information about Arkansas’s ARKids First insurance program for low-income Arkansas children


This is just the beginning! We will continue to update this list as we come across resources that might be helpful to you in understanding and accessing the health insurance system. If you have found a site that you would recommend, please email the URL to kclifford@apsrc.net.


   

 

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