A federal judge has lifted an injunction barring Arkansas from enforcing the state's 1995 "any willing provider" law. The ruling, by U.S. District Judge James Moody in Little Rock, caps a six-year legal battle over Arkansas' Patient Protection Act of 1995, which requires health insurers to include in their networks any doctor or hospital willing to abide by the plan's contract terms. The law was permanently blocked in 1998 by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and other insurers that the any-willing-provider requirement violated the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. But the debate over the statute was resurrected last April when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar any-willing-provider law in Kentucky and ruled that it did not run afoul of ERISA. "The ... decision by the Supreme Court directly impacts the law on which the injunction was originally granted and supports its dissolution," Moody wrote in his eight-page order. -- by Laura B. Benko
Ark. any-willing-provider law back in effect
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