America’s economy was built on the backs on entrepreneurs. The world’s largest, most successful companies began with one person’s dream to determine his or her own success.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the self-employed and the people they hire account for approximately 44 million of the nation’s jobs.

While the notion of entrepreneurship is appealing, there are disadvantages for which the self-employed individual must plan. One of those is health insurance coverage.

Whereas many full-time employees are afforded the opportunity to enroll in an employer-provided group plan, independent contractors must look to purchase individual plans which can often be quite expensive.

The Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace (AHIM) is here to help.

AHIM is a state-based exchange, created by the Arkansas General Assembly in 2013, to help individuals and families find quality and affordable health insurance coverage. During our last open enrollment period in late 2017, 68,100 Arkansans found health insurance through AHIM.

Our organization took an important step in 2016 toward greater local control when we converted to a state-based exchange using the federal enrollment platform. In other words, we utilize technology that is operated and maintained at the national level while retaining local management control. This approach allows us to offer Arkansans the highest quality of services.

Because of our strong local presence, Arkansans are choosing to purchase health insurance in strong numbers. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Arkansans has been reduced by half since 2013. Today, less than 8 percent of Arkansas’ population is uninsured. Part of this success is attributed to the local knowledge of our AHIM staff to reach our citizens, facilitate enrollment assistance and work collaboratively with other state-based groups to achieve common goals.

In fact, Arkansas is recognized nationally for its bold and innovative leadership in providing opportunities for health insurance coverage.

Though open enrollment is currently closed and will not re-open until November, there are special enrollment options available for people who may have experienced unforeseen life changes. Losing one’s job, losing COBRA coverage, a change to the size of the household and a change of residence are some of the considerations that can allow individuals to apply for health insurance coverage outside of the open enrollment period.

A full listing of the special enrollment criteria can be found at http://myarinsurance.com/pages/individuals/.

Just one catastrophic illness is all it takes to potentially bankrupt a family’s finances without the security and peace of mind that quality health insurance provides. You owe it to yourself and to those you love.

And, quite frankly, it’s the law. While a number of changes have been implemented to the Affordable Care Act under the Trump Administration, the individual mandate is still in place, at least for now. For those who can afford it, but for whatever reason have chosen not to purchase health insurance, a penalty will be assessed that equals 2.5% of the annual household income or up to $2,085 per household.

Wouldn’t that money be better invested in your family’s health? Keeping families healthy is the desire of any responsible health insurance plan.

The plans are administered by some of the nation’s leading, most trusted health insurance providers. Each plan offers preventive care, prescriptions, emergency care, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, lab tests, mental health and addiction care. Through AHIM, you are guaranteed coverage for all pre-existing conditions from day one.

Consumer savings, affordable choice, single point of contact, personal assistance and an engaged agent/broker network are the benefits provided to Arkansans who search for coverage through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, which is a one-stop shop for health insurance.

Visit www.myarinsurance.com for more information on the health insurance coverage options that are available.