LITTLE ROCK — The state Legislative Council on Friday postponed its review of a $5.1 million contract for a campaign to publicize the new health insurance exchange, saying it wanted to wait until information is released on the rates that insurers will charge in the exchange.
A review of the federally funded contract with Little Rock marketing firm Mangan Holcomb Partners was on the council’s agenda for Friday, but the panel voted to recess and take up the contract at a later date. Rep. John Edwards, D-Little Rock, the council’s co-chairman, said that likely would happen in the next week to 10 days.
On Thursday, state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford told a joint meeting of the House and Senate committees on public health, welfare and labor that information about premiums is expected to be released after contracts are signed Monday with the four insurance carriers that have said they want to offer plans through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace.
Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, moved Friday to delay the review of the contract for public outreach, saying he wanted to “give this particular item a thorough vetting in light of the information that will come Monday.”
Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville questioned how the two issues were related.
“If the rates come back unfavorably, is the Insurance Department going to pull down and not do advertising?” he said.
House’s motion passed in a voice vote. A number of “no” votes were heard.
Bradford said after the meeting that if the premiums approved Monday by the federal government are not to the state’s liking, he believed the state could initiate an appeal. Regardless, he said, the state will need to educate the public about the marketplace, which is required under the federal Affordable Care Act to begin selling insurance plans on Oct. 1.
Nearly all Americans are required under the law to have health insurance starting in January.
“Hopefully it’ll get resolved after Monday,” Bradford said. “The mission of that education process is to tell people how to get on the exchange, and no matter what happens, that’s important to the public, that they learn how to secure the coverage through the federal exchange. I’m glad that they recessed to where we wouldn’t have to wait another month for another meeting, because that would really put us behind.”