Friday, April 25, 2014

TOP STORY >> Thousands enrolled in counties

Leader senior staff writer

Nearly 70 percent of Arkansans eligible for private option signed up in the first six months, according to Amy Webb, communications director for the state Department of Human Services.

Demographics show most enrollees likely would not have had insurance without new program, she said.

A total of 155,567 of the estimated 225,000 Arkansans who qualify for health insurance through the private option had applied and been determined eligible as of March 31, surpassing expectations of the level of acceptance in the program’s first year.

Most of them – 82 percent – had incomes too low to pay for for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. About 5 percent of the people in central Arkansas counties have qualified for private option, which is a Medicaid program that pays for private insurance.


In Pulaski County, the state’s largest county with 389,000, 20,281 people enrolled, 60 percent of them women, 40 percent men.

Eighteen percent of enrollees were in the 19-24 year age group, with 27 percent bewtween 25 and 34 years old. Twenty-two percent of enrollees were 35 to 44, 20 percent were 45 and 54 and 13 percent of enrollees in Pulaski County were in the 55-64 year age group.

Of enrollees in Pulaski County, 83 percent were at or below the federal poverty level.


In Lonoke County, which has a population of 68,356 in the 2010 census, 2,739 signed up successfully for private option, 63 percent of them women, 37 percent men. Of those, 16 percent were in the 19-24 year age range, 29 percent in the 25-34 age group, 22 percent in the 35-44 age group, 21 percent in the 45-54 age group and 12 percent aged 55-64. Income was 100 percent of the federal poverty level or less for 80 percent of those.

In White County, with about 78,000 people, 3,770 signed up. Women accounted for 61 percent and men, 39 percent.

The 19-24-year-olds ac-counted for 17 percent of enrollees, with those 25 to 34 accounting for 25 percent. Those in the 35-44 age group accounted for 21 percent, those in the 45-54 group 22 percent and those in the 55-64 age range 14 percent. Eighty-one percent of enrollees were at or below the federal poverty level.


Unlike the health insurance marketplace, which has an open-enrollment period that ended March 31, people who are eligible for the private option can apply at any time throughout the year.

“We now know that an overwhelming majority of Arkansans in the program would have likely gone without health insurance had the Legislature not passed the private option,” according to John Selig, director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. “Clearly there was a real need in a lot of these families.”

The private option, signed into law last April and funded in March this year, allows the state to use federal Medicaid funding to pay the private health insurance premiums for those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,105 for a household of one. Arkansas was the first state in the country to place people in private plans rather than expand the traditional Medicaid program. Several other states are now exploring similar options.

Statewide, 61 percent of Arkansans in the program are women and 64 percent are ages 19 to 44 years old, a somewhat younger population than those getting coverage through the federal insurance marketplaces, said Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison.

“The average age and sheer number of people in the private option will have a significant impact on competitiveness and strength of the state’s insurance market moving forward,” Allison said.

Of the 155,567 people enrolled statewide for private-option health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, females accounted for 61 percent. Males were 59 percent.

On the young end of the scale, 18 percent of enrollees were between 19 and 25 years old, with another 25 percent between 26 and 34.

That’s 43 percent in the younger demographic, near the number desired to make the new system work. Those between 35 and 44 accounted for 21 percent of the total, with those between 45 and 54 being another 21 percent.

The oldest category, 55-64, accounted for only 15 percent of the total. Those 65 and older qualify automatically for Medicare.

Those 18 and younger are either on their parents’ plans or are on ARKids First or other Medicaid.