Short-term health insurance in Arkansas: find affordable coverage

Buying short-term coverage in Arkansas

Arkansas defaults to federal short-term regulations

Arkansas defaults to the federal regulations in terms of the allowable duration of short-term plans, but the state conducts rate review for short-term plans to ensure that the rates are actuarially justified, and also requires short-term plans to include coverage for some state-mandated benefits.

How long can short-term plans last in Arkansas?

Because Arkansas doesn’t impose its own limits on the duration of short-term plans, the Trump Administration’s new regulations apply in Arkansas. Insurers are allowed to offer short-term plans with initial terms up to 364 days and the option to renew for a total duration of up to 36 months. Prior to October 2, 2018, federal rules limited short-term health plans to three months in duration, and prohibited renewal. But the Trump Administration has relaxed those rules.

Insurers can offer short-term plans with maximum durations that are below the limits allowed under federal regulations. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arkansas has a maximum short-term plan duration of 88 days, and nothing requires them to extend that under the new federal guidelines.

Arkansas insurance regulations for short-term plans

The Arkansas Insurance Department allows short-term insurers to submit their initial rate filings and implement them without review, but rate changes after that are required to go through the state’s rate review process (short-term rate filings in SERFF indicate that Bulletin 14-2016 and Arkansas statute 23-79-109 are applicable to short-term plan rate filings).

According to the Insurance Department, Arkansas also requires short-term plans to cover some state-mandated benefits, but these are not the same as the ACA’s essential health benefits.

Arkansas insurance statute indicates that sections 23-85-105 through 23-85-117 are applicable to all plans sold in the state, but those regulations largely do not pertain to coverage of medical conditions. But some examples of state-mandated medical benefits are coverage for pregnancy complications, which is required in Arkansas, and coverage for autism treatment, which is also required in Arkansas (complications are pregnancy and autism benefits are strictly defined, however; this plan description for short-term coverage from Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield clarifies what constitutes a complication of pregnancy, and explains what is covered in terms of autism treatment).

The Arkansas Insurance Department issued a consumer alert in 2016, warning people about “high-pressure telemarketers” who were selling short-term plans over the phone and erroneously stating that the plans were ACA-compliant (short-term plans are, by definition, not regulated by the ACA).

In November 2018, after the allowable duration for short-term plans had been extended, the Arkansas Insurance Department issued another warning to consumers, noting that short-term plans are not compliant with the ACA, do not cover some of the ACA’s essential health benefits, do not cover pre-existing conditions, use medical underwriting to determine eligibility for coverage, and are limited to initial terms of under 12 months.

Which insurers offer short-term plans in Arkansas?

  • AdvantHealth
  • Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  • Companion Life
  • Everest Prime
  • Golden Rule (UnitedHealthcare)
  • Independence American Life
  • LifeShield
  • National General
  • QualChoice (QuicChoice)
  • Standard Life

Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.


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