‘Any Willing Provider' Bill Returns, This Time Without Wilson Off to Races

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014 12:00 am  

State Rep. Jay Bradford, D-Pine Bluff, has switched houses but not sides in the “any willing provider” debate. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

“When they started trying to define what was different, their primary emphasis was on who was covered by the act, which gets back to the definitional issue: What’s an insurance [plan], what’s a health benefit plan?”

In February 2004, Moody ruled that Arkansas’ AWP law could be enforced. ABCBS quickly appealed Moody’s ruling to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it remains.

ABCBS’ spokeswoman Max Heuer predicted health insurance premiums will rise 10 percent to 12 percent if the AWP law is upheld on appeal.

New Legislation

State Sen. Steve Faris doesn’t think Arkansas needs to wait for an appeals court ruling. He has introduced a new bill that mirrors the Kentucky law that already has been approved by the Supreme Court.

Last week, Faris’ bill was in the Senate Public Health, Welfare & Labor Committee.

“For a law to get passed in ’95 that simply says you can choose your own physician when you’re sick to be held up in the courts for this number of years, to me, it’s a travesty in itself,” Faris said.

“But if we go ahead and get a mechanism in place now, we might not have to wait a whole year for the court to decide.”

Faris said he, like Gwatney, has heard too many people complain about insurance policies that make it too expensive to see the doctors they prefer.

Bradford, chairman of the House Public Health Committee, said the 2005 version of the bill has “a tremendous amount of support, partially because the U.S. Supreme Court upheld virtually the same law that was from Kentucky.”

Still, business interests are divided on the issue, said Kenneth Hall, vice president for governmental affairs for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

“Viewed solely from an employer’s perspective, [Faris’ bill] is considered a bill that would damage if not destroy the ability to negotiate health care rates through networks,” Hall said by email.



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