Governor Mike Beebe and some state lawmakers are hoping to avoid costly changes for Arkansas school teachers enrolled in state health plans. Insurance premiums are predicted to rise by up to 50% at the start of next year for those enrolled in the popular gold plan.
The rate hikes are unconnected to the implementation of the federal health care law. In his weekly radio address, Governor Beebe said this is not a new problem.
“The structure of the plan has been a concern for many years, since only about half of those eligible for the coverage were enrolled. This past December, in a special committee meeting, the Arkansas General Assembly was again warned of the financial crisis facing the plan. During this winter's most recent legislative session, I requested an $8,000,000 allocation that prevented a mid-year rate increase for 2013," said Beebe.
There have been calls for the state legislature to meet in a special session to remedy the issue, but Beebe has said that can only work if everyone agrees on a plan beforehand. Beebe also said the solution can’t be a temporary fix and will require additional tax payer money.
He said any possible solutions must address long-term shortfalls, “I believe that using one-time money to meet ongoing costs should take place only when that funding is a bridge to more financially stable footing. This is why I feel that a strong framework for long-term sustainability must be agreed upon before I call a special session.”
The predicted shortfall for 2014 is about $54 million.