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Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: Arkansas's Health Insurance Marketplace

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Starting in October, hundreds of thousands of Arkansans will have access to affordable health insurance that’s never existed before. Arkansas’s new Health Insurance Marketplace goes active beginning October 1st. This is an online market where you can shop for and compare health-insurance plans. To find the best fit for your insurance needs, help is available at the Arkansas Health Connector. Just go online to arhealthconnector.org, or place a toll-free call to 1-855-283-3483 to find the best plan for you and your family. While the Marketplace becomes active October 1st, applications will be taken for six months, so your choice of the right health-insurance option can be unhurried and carefully considered.

After continued debate over the Affordable Care Act, rhetoric is being increasingly replaced by reality. Regardless of how you felt about the law as it was being debated three years ago, it is the law of the land and has been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. Since the Court’s decision, my focus has been to make sure that Arkansas tax dollars are best used to help Arkansans in responsible, sensible ways. This led to the creation of the Arkansas Private Option, approved by a bipartisan supermajority of the Arkansas Legislature. And now we have formal approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to offer that option to our people.

The Private Option uses federal Medicaid funds to provide insurance-premium assistance to Arkansas families living near or below the Federal Poverty Line. For more than 200,000 individuals and families, the Private Option will mean access to regular check-ups and preventive medicine. And that, in turn, can stop illnesses from becoming life-long conditions that cause physical, emotional and financial suffering.

Thousands of other working individuals and families in Arkansas will also find help through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Many of these Arkansans have jobs where health insurance is not offered. Or it’s offered at rates they cannot afford. There are now Marketplace policies that are more affordable through federal tax credits. Again, this will mean better access to basic health-care needs and less uncompensated care to burden hospitals and other insured citizens.

The Affordable Care Act is a massive undertaking, and there surely will be glitches and errors as its implementation continues. In Arkansas, we’ve been working to prepare our people for the changes that are coming. This includes both the opportunities and the requirements created by this national reform of our health-care system. We’ve worked to provide information as we’ve received it, replacing misleading rumors and claims with facts and local resources.

With the Arkansas Private Option, Arkansas set an example that is still garnering national attention. Instead of railing against the federal government, we found a way to work within the system. We made certain that private enterprise would remain central to our Health Insurance Marketplace, and that Arkansas would have a say in how that Marketplace is operated. Unfortunately, there are still some who remain politically motivated to try to crash this new system and root for its failure. In Arkansas, we will stay focused on the health of our people and the financial well-being of our State.