The former director of Utah’s health insurance exchange has been named director of a group that is exploring whether to create a state-run exchange in Arkansas.
Cheryl Smith will begin work next month for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. Arkansas has partnered with the federal government to run its exchange, but the state is exploring whether to establish its own state-run insurance marketplace.
Smith is the first employee of the marketplace to be hired since its board of directors was appointed last fall. She will be in charge of hiring other staff members, board member Fred Bean said.
“It’s exciting to me what she brings to the table with her experience and background,” he said.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Smith’s salary is set at $165,000 and will be funded by a $3.6 million grant from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The organization picked four finalists out of its 39 applicants. The three other finalists were from Tennessee and had experience in the private sector.
From 2008 to 2010, Smith was director of policy and strategy for the Utah exchange, which facilitates coverage offered by small businesses. Along with Massachusetts, Utah set up an insurance exchange before the 2010 health overhaul law. Smith now works as a consultant who advises state government officials on matters related to insurance exchanges.
In a phone interview, Smith said she applied for the Arkansas job because of the state’s compromise Medicaid expansion plan that uses federal dollars to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.
“People may love what Arkansas has decided to do, and they may hate it, but either way it’s got people talking and thinking, and that can only be a good thing,” Smith said.
State Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, chairman of a legislative committee monitoring the marketplace board, said he was pleased with the board’s selection.
“This is somebody who is very serious about innovative change in health care, and has been for some time,” Sanders said. “She fits the bill.”