Arkansas Insurance Marketplace Opens Enrollment

Published 10/02 2013 07:15AM

Updated 10/02 2013 07:17AM

SPRINGDALE, Ark. - The Arkansas Health Care exchange opened Tuesday, allowing the uninsured to enroll in a plan covering essential benefits, pre-existing conditions and more.

Local groups have been educating people for months about the new opportunities provided by the Affordable Health Care Act, and just hours after the marketplace opened this morning, the website was overrun with applicants.

"From what we know about the internet and how things go slowly with that when systems get bogged down, we were pretty careful about doing public outreach today," says Aaron Randall, the In-person Assister Guide Program Manager in Springdale. "We're gonna really hit it hard starting Thursday."

Springdale's Community Clinic served 30,000 patients last year, and Community Development Manager Tyler Clark says most of them are uninsured.

"They are the working poor," he says. "They're working those 2 part-time jobs or a job that doesn't provide insurance, so we see adults especially, that go without care for long periods of time, and their disease becomes chronic."

On Tuesday, some of the sixty thousand Northwest Arkansans without health care coverage started signing up for the state's private option.

"The healthcare exchange is now open online and in person and on the phone," Clark says. "The best way to explain the online marketplace, or the Arkansas marketplace is like You go to buy an airline ticket, you select which flight or which insurance coverage is right for you and your family, and you provide information, your income, your household level and size, and then you essentially check out. You'll find out how many federal subsidies you qualify for, how much tax breaks you'll get, and then you can decide to purchase that insurance."

Clark says using the marketplace is cheaper than finding insurance on your own, especially for families, but he says the Affordable Care Act does much more.

"It's dollars and cents, it's actually kind of changing the model of care, it's all about preventative care instead of urgent emergent care," he says. "In general you should see a healthier population. You should see health care premiums go down and a population living longer."

There is still plenty of time to sign up. The insurance will take effect on January 1, 2014 for anyone who enrolls by December 15th. People need to purchase some type of insurance by March 15th to avoid paying a penalty.

(story contributed by KNWA, Fayetteville)

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