Five firms seek to sell insurance in Arkansas through marketplace


LITTLE ROCK — Five companies have filed to sell insurance plans through Arkansas’ federally facilitated health insurance marketplace in 2015, the state Insurance Department said Wednesday.

The companies are Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, National Blue Cross Blue Shield Multi-State, Celtic Insurance offering plans in Arkansas under the name Ambetter Arkansas, Qualchoice Life and Health Insurance, and QCA Health Plan.

Four of the companies already offer plans through the marketplace. The newcomer is QCA Health Plan, which is owned by Catholic Health Initiatives, also the parent company of Qualchoice.

The companies submitted proposed plans and service areas for the 2015 plan year, which will be reviewed for compliance with state and federal requirements, the Insurance Department said. The Arkansas Healthcare Independence Act of 2013 requires that consumers in each of Arkansas’s 75 counties have a choice between at least two insurance providers.

“It has always been my desire, and in the best interest of the Arkansas consumer, to have quality competition and choice on the Health Insurance Marketplace,” state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford said in a news release.

Bradford said he was pleased with the level of participation the insurance industry has shown in the marketplace, which began enrolling people last year in plans that took effect starting in January.

Open enrollment for the 2015 plan year begins Nov. 15.

“While the plans have not yet been approved and certified by The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, I am confident Arkansas consumers in all 75 counties will now have more choice among health plans and issuers,” Bradford said.

Some state legislators have criticized the degree of choice available to consumers, pointing out that in some areas the only plans available are offered by Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield and National Blue Cross Blue Shield. Others have defended the marketplace, noting that the number of insurance companies offering plans in Arkansas has increased since it launched.