News : Health Panel Reviews Call Center Proposal
Little Rock, AK, USA, Sept 20, 2016 -- A state agency plans to solicit bids next week for a contract to operate a call center to field questions from Arkansans about their health insurance options.
Establishing the consumer assistance call center is among the federal requirements the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace must meet in order to take over responsibility for the state's health insurance exchange for individual consumers.
The center must be operational in time for the Nov. 1 start of the open enrollment period for consumers who buy health insurance on their own, rather than through an employer.
Money to pay for the center will come from a grant the agency was awarded by the federal government in late 2014, Alicia McCoy, a spokesman for the Health Insurance Marketplace, said Monday during a meeting of the Health Insurance Marketplace board's consumer assistance committee. She didn't say how much the call center is expected to cost.
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Operators with the call center won't answer questions. Instead they will transfer callers to the appropriate entity, such as the state Department of Human Services or the federal call center for healthcare.gov.
At the meeting Monday, the consumer assistance committee recommended the call center be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and allow callers to leave voice mail messages when the center is closed.
Health Insurance Marketplace board members will review the solicitation this week, Chairman Mike Castleberry said. The solicitation will then be issued on Monday.
The Legislature created the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2013 to set up health insurance exchanges for individual consumers and small businesses.
The agency set up a small business exchange last year but, at the request of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, has held off on plans to use money from the grant to set up a state-run enrollment system for individual consumers.
Under a proposal by Hutchinson, the agency is taking over responsibility for certifying the plans sold on the individual consumer exchange and for helping consumers enroll, but it will continue to rely on the federal enrollment system.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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