- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Obamacare customers in Arkansas will see a net decrease of 2 percent in premium costs on the state’s marketplace in 2015, Gov. Mike Beebe has announced — a development that could affect the state’s high-profile U.S. Senate race.

The Democratic governor noted this is a combined projection, so some people could see no change or even small increases in their premiums and others will see their costs go down by more than 2 percent.

In touting the news, Mr. Beebe’s office noted that nationwide, insurance rates usually rise between 6 to 10 percent each year.

The premium calculation includes policies offered through Arkansas’ pioneering “private option” method of Medicaid expansion, in which the state leveraged new federal funding to purchase private health coverage for newly eligible residents under the Affordable Care Act.

Several other states are emulating or examining the model, because it is more palatable to Republicans who object to Obamacare.

Premium requests for the 2015 plan year are pouring in from state to state, with regulators examining requested increases before publishing final rates. Republican opponents are quick to note areas of the country where customers could see double-digit increases.

But Arkansas’ announcement could be good news for Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat who gained notice last week by promoting aspects of the health care law in a campaign ad, although he did not mention the reforms by name.

Obamacare still polls poorly, and incumbent Democrats have tended to shy away from the reforms after the disastrous rollout of the law’s federal insurance portal last fall. Arkansans rely on the federal website, HealthCare.gov, when choosing private plans in the Obamacare marketplace.

Mr. Pryor’s Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, opposes Obamacare.

His campaign said last week that nobody should be denied health coverage for a pre-existing medical condition — the topic of Mr. Pryor’s ad — but that Obamacare is not the answer.

“We need to start over with reform that makes health care more affordable and keeps health care decisions between patients and doctors,” a Cotton campaign spokesman said.

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