LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- With the Supreme Court's decesion to uphold most of President Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act, everyone must have health care by 2014.
More than 500,000 Arkansans are without health insurance and more than 250,000 are estimated to be eligible for subsidized coverage through the new law.
"They couldn't get insurance many times if they had some type of chronic illness. Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, everybody who applies will get a standard insurance policy," says Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford
Bradford believes the new law will drive down the cost of health care.
"If you have insurance about 30 percent of your premium is going toward people who don't have insurance and go to the hospital and stay a week and that's $195,000 they have to absorb that, that's all reflected in our premiums," says Bradford.
There are portions of the Affordable Care Act already in place; insurance companies must cover kids with pre-existing conditions and they can remain on their parents insurance until age 26, preventive care like physicals and mammograms will be free and the law bans lifetime payout limits. ACA also requires 85 percent of your premium pay for health care or improved quality.
Commissioner Bradford says the insurance department will use a federal grant of more than 7 million dollars to educate Arkansans.
"How they get from A to Z on this process and so we're studying that. There will be navigators for people to talk to that will help you get there. The agents of course, as always will be facilitating people through the exchange," says Bradford.
In 2014 more drastic changes take effect:
The controversial individual mandate, where everyone must have insurance or pay a penalty on tax returns and health care exchanges will come online to help you shop for insurance. Federal Subsidies will help people up to 4 times the poverty level buy insurance and annual payout limits will be banned.
Bradford says it could be years before all Arkansans acquire health insurance.
"We won't sign up 500-thousand in the first year. It will take several years of the process to get there really," says Bradford.
Commissioner Bradford tells Today's THV the penalty for those choosing to not get insurance will start low, but will increase over time.