Last week, Gallup reported in a survey that not only did the rate of uninsured adult Arkansans decline by nearly half (from 22.5 percent in 2013 to 12.4 percent mid-2014), but that Arkansas now leads the country in decreasing the percentage of uninsured adults and went from having the second-highest rate of uninsured adults to ranking #22 in the nation for insured adults. This success came as a result of both the courage of Arkansas lawmakers and the combined efforts of concerned organizations across the state, including Southern Bancorp.

In 2013, the AR Health + AR Jobs Coalition helped expand health care to uninsured Arkansans living below 138 percent of the federal poverty level through legislation now known as the “Private Option.” The extension of Medicaid was a decision left to states per the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Arkansas policymakers voted to create the Private Option coverage alternative, choosing to accept federal funds to cover more low-income residents. In a bipartisan effort supported by House and Senate leadership and the governor, Arkansas designed a one-of-a-kind plan that delivers private insurance coverage funded through Medicaid, and the results speak for themselves.

Currently, more than 184,000 Arkansans have been accepted for coverage under the Private Option and approximately 39,000 additional Arkansans have signed-up for non-Medicaid plans through the new marketplace. That’s more than 223,000 Arkansans who no longer run the risk of being financially debilitated by a medical event.

In the previous year, medical bills were the biggest cause of U.S. bankruptcies, crippling the financial security of 1.7 million American households as shown in a 2013 national study.  Arkansas offering coverage to tens of thousands more Arkansans is a successful way to help a family manage a health-related incident, which means predictable and affordable expenses for health insurance, fewer missed days from work because of preventative care, and avoiding severe financial strain due to catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenditures – all of which lead to greater economic opportunities and stronger financial futures.

To learn more about our efforts to improve the economic security of rural communities and the people who live there, we invite you to contact Meredith Covington, Policy & Communications Manager, at

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