Cheryl Smith will run the non-profit board that is exploring the possibility of creating a state-run marketplace under the Affordable Care Act in Arkansas (like 35 other states, Arkansas opted not to create its own health-insurance exchange; currently, the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace is a federal-state partnership). Smith will be paid $165,000.
The General Assembly passed Act 1500 in 2013, which created the non-profit board and directed it to investigate whether the state should take over the operation of the Marketplace, potentially as soon as 2015. Smith previously directed the Utah health insurance exchange and more recently worked as a consultant for Deloitte Consulting, a management consulting firm headquartered in New York.
Among the folks who had applied for the job: Rep. Mark Biviano, one of the co-sponsors of Act 1500, which created the position. Good decision by the board to dodge the appearance of personal pork barreling.
One big question for Smith and the rest of the board: Rep. Nate Bell‘s amendment to the private option banned any state-funded outreach, not just for the private option but for the Marketplace as a whole. Given that the feds have requirements for outreach on a state-run marketplace, that would seem to be a no-go as long as Bell’s special language is on the books.
Part of the impetus for Act 1500 was the private option itself, the state’s unique policy using Medicaid funds to purchase health insurance for low-income Arkansans. Since that program uses the Marketplace — that’s where beneficiaries pick their plans — many lawmakers and state officials have concluded that it would be more efficient for Arkansas to run its own, rather than relying on a federally facilitated marketplace. But the Bell amendment, enacted to help the private option survive during the fiscal session, may make that impossible, at least in 2015.