Ark. report details cost of adding dental coverage to private option

Requiring dental and vision coverage under Arkansas' so-called private option would increase costs by $42.6 million a year, about $20 per person per month, according to a new report delivered to the Arkansas Legislature.

At present time, the state has no plans to add dental and vision benefits to the private option, according to a story.

Federal Medicaid money is used to subsidize private health insurance for people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level under Arkansas' private option program. More than 180,000 people are now eligible for the program.

According to an Arkansas official cited in the story, the federal government will not allow additions to plans before 2016. Arkansas is required to stay within a spending cap during the program's first three years or be responsible for paying any overage to the federal government.

One company -- Centene , operating under the name Ambetter Arkansas -- currently provides dental and vision coverage to some people under the private option.

State officials have said they did not intend for dental and vision coverage to be part of the private option. Starting next January, plans offered through the program will be limited to what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) classifies as essential health benefits, which does not include dental or vision benefits for adults.

Lawmakers expressed concern that Ambetter's benefits for restorative dental services require a six-month wait. This means that a person who obtains a plan with dental benefits now would not be able to receive those benefits before they are discontinued in 2015.

Lawmakers are working on a proposal for health independence accounts in which people covered under the private option would be able to make contributions to accounts that they could later use to buy private insurance if they leave the private option.

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