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Learn about the 2021 rates for Obamacare in Miller County.

Miller County, Arkansas Obamacare Guide

What Arkansas Residents Need to Know About Obamacare for 2021

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has not been struck down or repealed. Arkansas open enrollment for 2021 plans runs from November 1 until December 15.

The news has been full of uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as the law once again sits before the U.S. Supreme Court. However, a ruling on that case is still many months away and chaotic political winds could shift and affect the law before that time. For 2021 health plans, you can use Healthcare.gov to compare plans, sign up for coverage, and get financial assistance.

This website provides information about getting health insurance under the ACA, including:

To begin, keep in mind these key points about health insurance in Arkansas:

1. Open enrollment for 2021 health insurance plans runs from Sunday, November 1, 2020 to Tuesday, December 15, 2020.

In Arkansas, you can sign up for 2021 health coverage from November 1 to December 15, 2020. If you enroll by December 15, your coverage will begin on January 1, 2021.

Enrollment for 2020 health coverage has ended, but you can get covered for the rest of the year if you qualify for a special enrollment period, including job loss due to the COVID-19 crisis.

If you are currently uninsured, you can use Healthcare.gov to compare plans and enroll in a plan that meets your needs. 

If you already have health insurance, you will be automatically re-enrolled in your existing plan if it is still available. Even if you can continue in the plan you have now, open enrollment lets you review your coverage, compare plans, and switch to a new one if you find a better option.

To learn more about enrollment, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in Arkansas.

2. You won’t face a tax penalty for going without health insurance in 2021—but there are big downsides to being uninsured.

Obamacare’s tax penalty went away in 2019. That means that if you go without health insurance coverage, you won’t have to pay a penalty when you file your federal taxes.

Even though there's no more tax penalty, think hard about whether it makes sense to forego health insurance. A medical crisis could knock the financial wind from your sails and do more damage than the penalty would. (A study published in 2019 showed that a lapse in health insurance coverage can double a person's chances of ending up in bankruptcy.) And if you miss open enrollment and find yourself needing coverage mid-year, you may have to wait until 2022 to get it.

3. Average premium rates are staying fairly stable and insurers are sticking with the marketplace, despite the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For the past six years, Charles Gaba at ACAsignups.net has done a good job of predicting and tracking premium increases state by state and for the nation as a whole. He tracks the numbers for each state on this chart, updating it as new information becomes available. So far, only a couple of states are showing premium increases of more than 10%, while a number of states show average premium rates dropping for 2021.

4. Premium subsidies are available to save you money.

Several forms of financial assistance can help you lower your health insurance premiums.

Fedral tax credits. The federal government provides help with premium payments for those whose incomes fall between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level. For example, for 2021 health plans, a family of four in Arkansas earning as much as $104,800 can qualify for subsidies, as can an individual who earns up to $51,040. Though the subsidies are tax credits, they are automatically deducted from the cost of your premiums each month, as long as you purchase your plan through Healthcare.gov.

Cost sharing reductions. More than half of the people who purchase coverage through a health insurance exchange receive "cost-sharing reductions" (CSRs). Originally, these were payments the federal government made to insurance companies that allowed them to reduce deductibles and co-payments for lower-income Americans. In 2017, the Trump administration stopped paying for CSRs, but insurers and many state regulators found a creative way keep the program alive—adding the costs to silver marketplace plans through a practice called “silver loading”—so CSR benefits remain available for 2020 insurance plans.

Keep in mind that cost-sharing subsidies are available only on silver plans. They will automatically reduce your premium if your income is no more than 250% of the federal poverty level. (For 2021 health plans, that means a family of four in Arkansas can't earn more than $65,500 and an individual not more than $25,520.) If you think you may qualify, look carefully at costs for the silver plans available at Healthcare.gov while you are shopping for coverage.

Medicaid. If your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid in Arkansas.

For more information, see Ways to Save Money on Obamacare in Arkansas.

5. Beware insurance plans that don’t comply with the ACA!

In 2018, the Trump administration made it easier to purchase "short-term insurance plans" and a federal court upheld this move. Short term plans don’t have to cover preexisting conditions or the essential health benefits provided by Obamacare plans. In the past, short-term plans were allowed to last only three months but under new rules you can purchase a non-ACA compliant “short term” plan that lasts as long as three years.

If you’re genuinely caught without health insurance and need it for a few months to cover a new health condition, you might want to consider a true short-term plan to get you through to the next open enrollment period. Otherwise, be careful of plans that don’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and shop around to look for coverage that truly meets your needs.

Remember, if your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid in Arkansas.

6. You can get help signing up if you need it.

A couple years back, the Trump administration drastically cut funding for  programs that provide help with health insurance enrollment. But that doesn't mean you have to fend for yourself when finding and signing up for health insurance. To connect with local support resources, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in Arkansas.


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How To Sign Up for Obamacare in Arkansas

To sign up for a health plan under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) you can go directly to the online health insurance marketplace for Arkansas. If you need personalized help, you can reach out to one of the many types of enrollment assistants working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis.

For 2021 health plans, Arkansas open enrollment runs from November 1 until December 15, 2020. If you enroll by December 15, your coverage will begin on January 1, 2021.

Enrollment for 2020 health coverage has ended, but you can get covered for the rest of the year if you qualify for a special enrollment period, including job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Where's the Arkansas Health Care Exchange?

You can find the health insurance exchange for Arkansas at Healthcare.gov. This is where you can learn about the various health insurance options available to you under the Affordable Care Act. If you see a plan you like, you'll be guided through the enrollment process online.

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Do I Have to Get Health Insurance in Arkansas?

Technically, the Affordable Care Act -- aka Obamacare -- still says that you must have health insurance. Practically, however, the federal tax penalty for going without health insurance has been "zeroed out." That means you'll still have to report your coverage status on your federal tax return, but you won't have to pay a penalty if you aren't covered.

A handful of states have passed their own health insurance requirements, but as we approach open enrollment for 2021 health plans, Arkansas is not one of them.

If you're interested -- or if the tax penalty comes back -- here's what the Affordable Care Act still says about the kinds of health insurance Americans should have.

What Qualifies as Minimum Essential Coverage?

The Affordable Care Act requires you to have what's called "minimum essential coverage" or MEC. The following types of health coverage meet the ACA's guidelines:

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Arkansas Medicaid Expansion: Do I Qualify for Medicaid Under the ACA?

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) expanded Medicaid eligibility to include more people who couldn’t otherwise obtain health insurance. As written, the ACA would extend Medicaid to all adults with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. (For a single person in Arkansas in 2020, that’s $17,609. For a family of four, it’s $36,156.)

However, the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that it was up to individual states to decide whether to expand Medicaid. As of August 2020, 12 states have not expanded their programs.

Arkansas Has Expanded Medicaid

Arkansas did decide to expand its Medicaid program. The expansion program is called "Arkansas Works," and it functions differently than Medicaid expansion in most states. Arkansas residents who need health coverage and are eligible for expanded Medicaid will go to the health insurance marketplace at Healthcare.gov. There, they will apply for a private health insurance plan. When they reach the point of purchase, the state Medicaid agency will pay the bill.

The new program originally contained a work requirement, but that was overturned in court and put on pause for now.

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Understanding Obamacare's Preventive Health Care Benefits

Get a colonoscopy, mammogram, vaccinations, and other essential services for free

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to offer certain preventive care services free of charge -- or more accurately, for nothing more than the cost of your monthly insurance premiums. This rule applies to most plans sold directly by insurance companies and all plans sold through Healthcare.gov, the health care marketplace for Arkansas. Covered preventive services are available for free (meaning no co-pay or other out-of-pocket charges) whether or not you’ve met your plan’s annual deductible.

Tips for Using Your Preventive Care Benefits – And Avoiding Unexpected Charges

Below, you’ll find a list of free preventive benefits -- screening tests, counseling services, and vaccinations -- for adults, women, and kids. But first, here are some pointers to help you avoid an unexpected bill for services you thought were preventive.

Use a network provider. To get a preventive service for free, you must use a health care provider in your insurance plan’s network.

Know the difference between “preventive” and “diagnostic.” Doctors can use screening tests for either preventive or diagnostic reasons. For example, having a routine mammogram every year or two is preventive care for women over 40. But if you schedule a mammogram because you feel a lump or have breast pain, that’s diagnostic. Likewise, a routine colonoscopy is recommended for adults over 50, but if your doctor schedules a colonoscopy to investigate a problem like blood in your stool, it becomes a diagnostic procedure. Preventative services are free; diagnostic procedures are not. (If the timing is right -- say, you go to the doctor because you find a lump in your breast but you also happen to be due for an annual mammogram -- your doctor may bill the diagnostic procedure as preventive, but that’s not something you can count on.)

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Obamacare for Self-Employed Arkansas Residents

Many self-employed people will be quick to tell you that getting and paying for health insurance is one of the biggest challenges they face. For some, however, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) may make things easier by providing new coverage options for the self-employed.

Are You Self-Employed or an Employer? 

Before you start evaluating your options for health coverage, you need understand whether the Affordable Care Act thinks you're self-employed.

The ACA says you are self-employed if you are an independent contractor or a sole proprietor without employees. (If you hire other independent contractors to do some work for you, you probably still qualify as self-employed.) If you are self-employed, you can use Healthcare.gov to compare health insurance plans and sign up for the one that works best for you.

If you have employees – usually, workers whose income you report on a W-2 at the end of the year -- you’re considered an employer. In that case, you can learn about purchasing health insurance for yourself and your employees through the SHOP Marketplace. You will be connected with a registered SHOP (Small Business Health Options) agent or broker who can help you understand your coverage options.

If you aren’t sure whether the people who work for you are independent contractors or employees, read "Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee?" on the IRS website.

What the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) Means for Self-Employed People in Arkansas

Here are seven things self-employed people should know about the Affordable Care Act:

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How Obamacare Affects Unemployed Arkansas Residents

During this time of record unemployment, many people have lost not only their jobs, but health insurance, too. (Between February and May of 2020, an estimated 5.4 million people became uninsured because of job losses during the coronavirus pandemic.)

If you've suffered the dual blow of losing employment and your insurance, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) may offer relief in the form of readily available, affordable coverage. Usually, you must sign up during an open enrollment period. But leaving your job and losing job-based health insurance makes you eligible for special enrollment; you'll have 60 days to sign up for a new health plan. 

All plans available through the marketplace offer essential medical benefits, including preventive care, emergency services, and prescription drug coverage. You can't be turned away if you have a pre-existing medical condition and, because you're not working, you'll probably qualify for significant cost-saving subsidies.

When you sign up for a health plan under the ACA, your coverage can start within a few weeks.

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What Domestic Partners Need to Know About Applying for Health Insurance Under Obamacare

When registered domestic partners or civil union partners apply for coverage at an Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace, there’s one question that almost always arises: Do we apply based on our separate incomes or must we include all the income we make as a couple?

The answer depends on the state where you live.

States other than California, Nevada, or Washington. In almost all states, registered domestic partners or civil union partners who apply for insurance via the state’s health insurance exchange must do so separately. Each partner includes only his or her separate income, and this amount determines health plan costs and eligibility for cost-saving subsidies. It works this way because domestic partners are not considered married for federal tax purposes. (If you registered first and got legally married later, this article doesn't apply to you. You must apply as a married person and report your combined income.)

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Obamacare and Seniors

If you’re over the age of 65, your health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) depend on whether or not you’re covered by Medicare or another insurance plan. To find out what, if anything, you need to do, find the situation below that applies to you.

You have Medicare. If you’re already enrolled in Medicare, you’re considered covered under the ACA, and you don’t have to do anything. In fact, it’s illegal for someone who knows you have Medicare to try to sell you a plan through an ACA health insurance marketplace.

The Affordable Care Act does enhance your existing Medicare coverage by providing additional preventive care benefits, such as cancer screenings and an annual wellness visit.

For more information on Medicare coverage, go to Medicare.gov.

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Can I Use a Paper Application to Get Obamacare?

When Obamacare first launched, the federal and state health insurance marketplaces (also called “exchanges”) were plagued by technical troubles. Many people who tried to sign up for new health insurance plans online in the early days were unable to complete their applications.

Because of these difficulties, some individuals and application assistants turned to the old-school way of getting health insurance -- paper applications.

Applying on Paper May Not Be Better or Faster

When facing a slow or broken online health insurance exchange, using a paper application may seem tempting -- at least it would provide the feeling of getting something done. However, paper forms may not speed up the process at all. On the contrary, they could slow down your application even more.

The worker who reviews your paper application must manually enter the information from your forms into the same system you would use online at your state’s exchange. It won’t work any faster for them than it does for you. Plus, using a paper application opens up more opportunity for error by putting more people between you and your goal of getting insurance.

It’s still best to apply online if you can. That said, if you feel that you’re unlikely to come back and apply for health insurance later, you may want to go ahead and complete a paper application now. 

To get a paper application, call the Healthcare.gov customer service center and let them know you want to apply on paper. They'll point you to a downloadable application or send you one in the mail. For detailed Healthcare.gov contact information, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in Arkansas.

When Are You Legally Required to Report “Life Changes” to the Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange?

Are you planning to get married, change jobs, or move to a new state? If so, you might have to share your big news with Healthcare.gov.

Which Changes Must You Report? 

If you buy a health insurance plan through the Arkansas marketplace, the Affordable Care Act requires you to report changes that may affect your insurance coverage. These changes include: 

  • moving to a new state or insurance coverage area
  • significant changes in income
  • getting new health coverage through a job
  • signing up for Medicare or Medicaid
  • getting married or divorced
  • becoming pregnant, having a child, adopting a child, or placing a child for adoption
  • losing or gaining a dependent
  • becoming disabled, and
  • other changes that affect your income or household size.

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About This Website

We built this website to get people the answers they need about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Our goal is to guide you to reliable, local information about your new health insurance options.

When you choose your state or enter your zip code here, you will quickly learn:

  • whether or not you're required to get health insurance

  • what the available plans cover

  • how much coverage will cost, and

  • how to sign up in your state.

For those concerned about cost, we show you how to determine whether you qualify for subsidies.

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