Good news from Arkansas

From the Arkansas Times:

Insurance companies have proposed a net reduction in premiums of 2 percent next year for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, the health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. The Marketplace includes all of the plans used for the private option, the state’s unique plan which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans….

Health insurance premiums for consumers buying coverage on their own was growing 10 percent or more per year before Obamacare. It’s become almost axiomatic in health care that insurance premiums will go up every year, so a potential decline is huge news


This is good news for two reasons. The first is the simple reason that managed competition seems to be working reasonably well in Arkansas. There were a couple of companies that were approved for increases, and more that were approved for decreases.  Flat or slightly declining aggregate insurance pricing is a massive deal for the state budget, and a good deal for the residents.  Given the federal subsidy structure, almost every subsidized Arkansas resident (assuming income growth at or below national rates) will see their out of pocket premium expenses stay flat or go down slightly in the second year. 

More interestingly from my point of view is how this applies to the 1115 waiver that established the private option in Arkansas.  The 1115 waiver process has a number of requirements including federal government budget neutrality or budget gain.  I’ve always been a bit suspicious of private option net budget neutrality as the reimbursement rates are significantly higher.  A net decrease in Silver premiums makes achieving federal budget neutrality more reasonable.

19 replies
  1. 1
    WereBear says:

    This is amazing news.

    Do I wish we had a whole network of obedient idiots who would talk this up as the great thing it is?


  2. 2
    Baud says:


    It’s called the hack deficit. It’s been written about, and I think it definitely hurts our side.

  3. 3
    Schlemizel says:

    I was forced to hear TV in Colorado for a couple of days & the moron running against Udall was 24/7 “Udall was the deciding vote on Obamacare!! (a charge the assclown here in MN throws against Franken BTW – apparently its not enough to just vote for the bill you have to be the DECIDING vote!!1!) and how Obamacare was destroying the great healthcare CO used to have. My guess is this news will somehow be passed over not passed on.

  4. 4
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Schlemizel: They wave “Obamacare” around like a voodoo doll. The projection, it’s overwhelming.

  5. 5
    MomSense says:


    If the media do decide to report this good news, they will sure as shit follow up with a bad news poll for Obama. Can never ever let any good news have the last word.

  6. 6
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Schlemizel: Apparently, Kay Hagen was also the DECIDING VOTE on Obamacare.

    I smell a PAC’s script.

  7. 7
    nancydarling says:

    David Ramsey, who penned the linked ArkTimes article, is our go-to-guy in Arkansas for lucid explanations of sometimes arcane policies and figures just as Richard is our go-to-guy here at BJ,

    I am so grateful to and impressed by both of them!

    Mark Pryor recently did an ad with his father, David Pryor, in which he touted his vote for a bill that wouldn’t allow pre-existing condition exclusions in insurance policies. He was talking about Obamacare which he couldn’t bring himself to say out loud. It’s a tough sell in this state where hatred of President Obama is part of the political landscape.

  8. 8
    MomSense says:

    BTW in job killing ObamaCare news, 2nd Q GDP growth revised up to 4.2%.

    All together now…I blame Obama!

  9. 9
    rikyrah says:

    keep the information coming

  10. 10
    StringOnAStick says:

    @Schlemizel: Unfortunately, here in Colorado that “Obamacare” charge may have some sticking power, especially if you live in the ski area counties that had outrageous insurance costs because the local ski area docs and associated facilities were not at all interested in negotiating for lower reimbursements. Apparently when your practice is mostly rich people and rich people in vacation, who gives a crap about the local worker bees.

    The last I heard there was a proposal to widen the local regions to include more of the lower cost areas and thus bring down the insurance premiums, but that has the effect of raising the rates in the lower cost areas in order to bring down costs in the higher cost areas. Denver and the northern regions are a bit of blue in a sea of western and southern rural wingnuttia.

  11. 11
    GHayduke (formerly lojasmo) says:


    Was going to post a snarky comment about the U6, but I see it’s down from a high of 17 to it’s current 12%


  12. 12
    Richard Mayhew says:

    @GHayduke (formerly lojasmo): Anecdotally, I’m seeing good news on the labor market — most notably, I had a good cup of coffee with my former boss yesterday and asked how the search was going for my replacement.

    “I can either find someone with the skills for your job and I can find someone who will take what I can offer right now. My problem is that they are not the same person…”

    An offer was made to the candidate with the skill set, and the number offered was laughed at by the candidate before a polite decline came in.

  13. 13
    MomSense says:

    @GHayduke (formerly lojasmo):

    Those numbers are fixed!1!1! Fixed I tell you!1!1!1!

  14. 14
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MomSense: “skewed’

  15. 15
    Mnemosyne says:


    It does sound as though some of the smaller Western states (including Colorado and New Mexico) are getting screwed because they don’t have enough purchasing power. I think Ella in New Mexico and TaMara were talking about it recently. Even Medicaid expansion hasn’t helped.

    That’s the kind of thing that makes me wonder if it would be useful to let those states form consortiums so they can band together to expand their market. Not “let insurers sell across state lines,” but basically tell insurers that the market is now, say, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona and the insurance companies have to make sure they have affordable coverage in the whole region. Arizona and Utah would probably fuck it up for you guys, though. :-(

  16. 16
    West of the Cascades says:

    @GHayduke (formerly lojasmo): But Obama is debasing the dollar!!

    Best thing about the post from the Arkansas Times was the headline, “Obamacare premiums in Arkansas projected to drop 2 percent in 2015.” Flying the “Obamacare” flag is nice to see.

  17. 17
    Richard Mayhew says:

    @Mnemosyne: I don’t think it is rural/low population problem (see Vermont, see Maine as low population states doing reasonably well). I think at least for Colorado, it is a very consolidated provider market problem and a fragmented payer market problem. I am not as sure about New Mexico.

    I’ll have more to say about your idea about regional regulation in a soon to be written post.

  18. 18
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Richard Mayhew:

    I wonder if it could be a geographical problem: by square mileage, Maine and Vermont are both much smaller than Colorado and New Mexico (from Wikipedia, Maine is 35,000 square miles, Vermont is 9,000 square miles, New Mexico is 121,000 square miles, and Colorado is 104,000 square miles).

  19. 19
    mclaren says:

    Unless this decline in rates is long-term and ongoing, it means nothing. All the airheaded Obots are running around trumpeting this as “great news” when the fact is this momentary blip can be and almost certainly will be wiped out with a single year of 10-percent rate increases.

    The plain fact of the matter is that you people are celebrating noise. The reall issue remains: can the ACA bend the price curve on health care?

    The answer to that question is in. The answer is a big NO. Massaschusetts, where the pilto program for the ACA got started, finds itself mired in higher-than-usual cost increases for their medical care. If Massaschusetts can’t make the ACA work, why do we think any other state can?

    This is a Republican “health care” plan, people. That means it’s guaranteed to enrich greedy corrupt for-profit health care corporations and impoverish and destroy the lives of the average person.

    You people are celebrating what you should be fighting tooth and nail. If every empty-headed obot on this forum who yips with delight about a temporary one-quarter blip in health care prices were to go out on the streets and lie down in front of capitol hill and block traffic until Washington D.C. shut down, we’ve have goddamn national single-payer health care so fast you’d hear a sonic boom.

    If hordes of Americans protesting lack of decent health care in this country turned Washington D.C. into Ferguson MO for a six months, you can bet your ass that the people blocking nationalized single-payed health care would be running for the hills and we’d have decent health care enacted in this country within a year. The real reason we don’t have nationalized single-payer is that rich entitled courtiers of the status quo like Richard Mayhew keep telling us it’s “impossible.”

    Things in politics are only impossible until they’re not. In 2006, a black president was “impossible.” Then Barack Obama got elected. In 1962, a national civil rights act was “impossible.” Then LBJ passed it in 1964. In 1984, the collapse and disappearance of the Soviet Union was “impossible.” Then in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down.

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