Arkansas launches insurance portal

Arkansas' Employee Benefits Division (EBD) is building a Web-based system that will enable active and retired state and public school employees to view, enroll in and manage their health care plans and life insurance programs online.

State officials are rolling out the system in stages to replace a fragmented framework, which is partially paper-based and partially composed of homegrown systems, said Sharon Dickerson, executive director of the division.

The state has a self-insured program for its 76,000 school and state employees. On Aug. 1 school workers became the first to have online access for open enrollment. As of Oct. 1, state employees now have the same capabilities. With eligibility data in one central repository, benefits include reduced paper use, lower administrative costs and improved efficiency, Dickerson said.

A beneficial system

Arkansas' new insurance portal will include a central repository for all insurance claims filed by state and public school employees.

Benefits of this repository include:

* Identifying potential duplicate claims.

* Generating reports that filter data from the whole system.

* Enabling employers to reconcile disparities with data in their payroll systems.


Employee benefits officials also hope that by next summer, claims sent by third-party health care insurers for reimbursement will be paid through the online system. The state agency also wants a claims repository that will check eligibility at almost the same time the health care carrier requests reimbursement. This will enable the division to check eligibilities on claims and possibly eliminate duplicate payments.

Another benefit of a claims repository would be the ability to query the system and generate reports that filter data from the whole system. For example, EBD officials could see how many employees have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and determine how to improve their care, she said.

"We haven't really had that ability in quite a long time," Dickerson said. Through the new system, they can look at various programs available for disease management, educate members and thus improve the quality of life.

Business officials could view bills in the system to reconcile disparities or errors with data in their payroll systems. In the past, such officials had to deal with paper bills, take the time to find errors on a list and then send in the corrections. Officials can correct bills immediately in the new system. "That's the goal," Dickerson said. "The reality is it's going to take a while for them to get there because they haven't had a system as this in the past."

The Web-based system is fairly intuitive and captures most information accurately, said George Platt, the division's operations manager. Since going live Aug. 1, in time for open enrollment for school employees, the site has received 10,000 hits, he said.

Work on the project started about a year ago. Platt said system developers identified nearly two dozen data sources, from payroll to homegrown systems that track retirees, that had to be verified, cleaned up and converted into a centralized Oracle Corp. 9i database.

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