You can get health insurance in several ways. You might be eligible for a government health program, like Medicaid or Medicare, or your employer may provide health insurance. If you’re not eligible for government or employer health insurance, you can purchase a private plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace. Although the monthly cost of health insurance in Arkansas varies, policies all follow the same pattern.
The more you spend out-of-pocket for medical expenses, the lower your premium becomes. MoneyGeek compared various plan types for individuals of different ages to help you find the best health insurance in Arkansas that matches your medical requirements and preferences. The plans analyzed are those available for purchase in the insurance exchange.
The Cheapest Health Insurance in Arkansas by Metal Tier
Plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace fall into different levels or tiers. These are named after precious metals and determine the share of your medical expenses covered by your insurance provider. Less valuable metals, such as Bronze and Expanded Bronze, have lower premiums but require you to spend more out of pocket since their deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums are typically high.
There are four metal tiers available in the state, including Bronze, Expanded Bronze, Silver and Gold. In Arkansas, the average cost of each of the tiers are:
- Bronze: $329 per month
- Expanded Bronze: $359 per month
- Silver: $418 per month
- Gold: $542 per month
Gold plans may cost more per month but can end up being cheaper if your health expenses are high. When you purchase a Gold plan, your insurance provider shoulders around 80% of medical costs, allowing you to pay less out of pocket.
The table below shows the cheapest health insurance in Arkansas based on monthly premiums for each tier. Comparing plans within a metal tier is encouraged because premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums vary between plans and providers.
If you have a lower income, you may qualify for cost-sharing reductions (CSR) if you purchase a Silver plan. In addition, it’s a great deal for buyers since deductibles will be lower than usual.
MoneyGeek used rates for a 40-year-old male for the various plan types available in Arkansas. Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans are most common in the state, although Point of Service (POS) plans are also available.
Cheapest Health Insurance in Arkansas by Metal Tier
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- Metal TierPlanCompanyMonthly CostOOP Max
- BronzeAmbetter Essential Care 1 (2021)Ambetter from Arkansas Health & Wellness$322$8,300
- Expanded BronzeBronze Plan 1Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield$343$8,550
- SilverAmbetter Balanced Care 12 (2021)Ambetter from Arkansas Health & Wellness$387$8,400
- GoldAmbetter Secure Care 5 (2021)Ambetter from Arkansas Health & Wellness$499$6,300
The Cheapest Health Insurance in Arkansas by Age and Metal Tier
One of the factors insurance providers consider when setting premiums is the buyer’s age. The difference in PPO plan rates for 26-year-olds and 60-year-olds is more than $500. The average monthly premium for a 26-year-old buying a Silver plan costs $335, while 60-year-olds pay $889 per month on average for a similar plan.
Health Insurance Costs in Arkansas by Age and Metal Tier
The older you are when you purchase health insurance, the higher the premium becomes. Although low-cost plans like Bronze or Expanded Bronze may seem attractive, you can end up spending more out of pocket if you have a lot of health expenses.
These rates do not consider your unique combination of age and income, as they are based on sample ages alone. Some Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace plans have lower premiums for older people because of tax premiums and other regulations. If you want to get an exact quote, you need to apply for a health plan.
The table below toggles between the buyer’s age and metal tiers. If you need more information about the metal tiers, you can read MoneyGeek's extensive guide on health insurance in Arkansas.
Cheapest Health Insurance in Arkansas by Age And Metal Tier
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- PlanCompanyMonthly Rate
- BronzePPOAmbetter from Arkansas Health & Wellness$230
- BronzePPOAmbetter from Arkansas Health & Wellness$240
- Expanded BronzePPOArkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield$245
- Expanded BronzePPOAmbetter from Arkansas Health & Wellness$247
- Expanded BronzePPOAmbetter from Arkansas Health & Wellness$258
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The Cheapest Health Insurance in Arkansas by County
Arkansas uses rating areas to calculate monthly premiums, so where you live in the state impacts the cost of health insurance. Counties within a rating area use a similar system for rates.
Arkansas’ 75 counties are divided into seven rating areas. In Pulaski, the most populous county in the state, the most affordable Silver plan is Ambetter Balanced Care 12 (2021). You can purchase it from Ambetter from Arkansas Health and Wellness for a monthly premium of $387, on average.
You can use the table below to find the cheapest health insurance in Arkansas for your county in all available metal tiers.
A profile of a 40-year-old male in Arkansas looking to purchase a health plan in the various counties was used for this analysis.
Cheapest Health Insurance Plans in Arkansas by County
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- Metal TierCompanyCheapest PlanMonthly Premium
- CleburneBronzeAmbetter from Arkansas Health & WellnessAmbetter Essential Care 1 (2021)$322
- LonokeBronzeAmbetter from Arkansas Health & WellnessAmbetter Essential Care 1 (2021)$322
- PulaskiBronzeAmbetter from Arkansas Health & WellnessAmbetter Essential Care 1 (2021)$322
- YellBronzeAmbetter from Arkansas Health & WellnessAmbetter Essential Care 1 (2021)$322
- ConwayBronzeAmbetter from Arkansas Health & WellnessAmbetter Essential Care 1 (2021)$322
The Cheapest Health Insurance in Arkansas With High Out-of-Pocket Maxes
A low-cost plan with high out-of-pocket maximums can be an option for younger people. Although you may have to pay more out of pocket if you have a medical emergency or your visits to the doctor suddenly increase in a given year, the monthly premiums remain low.
For 26-year-olds, the most affordable health insurance plan in Arkansas with a high out-of-pocket maximum is from Ambetter from Arkansas Health and Wellness. Their plan, Ambetter Essential Care 1 (2021), costs an average of $258 per month.
MoneyGeek considers plans with max out-of-pocket limits of $8,250 or higher as having a high out-of-pocket maximum.
Ambetter from Arkansas Health and Wellness
Ambetter from Arkansas Health and Wellness offers the cheapest health insurance plan in Arkansas with a high out-of-pocket maximum. It falls under the Bronze tier, which means the monthly premium is low, but you’ll have to pay more for medical expenses.
The Cheapest Health Insurance in Arkansas With Low Out-of-Pocket Maximums
If you have more medical expenses than the average person, a plan with a higher monthly premium and low out-of-pocket maximums may work to your advantage. Despite having a higher monthly rate, regular visits to the doctor or routinely purchasing prescription drugs allow you to reach the maximum limit sooner. In turn, your insurance provider begins covering medical costs earlier as well.
For an average of $575 each month, you can purchase the HA Gold Plan HSA1 from Health Advantage. It is the most affordable health insurance plan in Arkansas with a low out-of-pocket maximum.
MoneyGeek categorizes a plan as having a low out-of-pocket maximum if its threshold is below $4,250. HA Gold Plan HSA1’s out-of-pocket maximum is $3,800.
Health Advantage offers the most affordable health insurance plan in Arkansas with a low out-of-pocket maximum. Being a Gold plan, it has a higher monthly premium but allows you to save since you pay less out of pocket for medical costs.
Cheapest PPO/POS Health Insurance Plan in Arkansas
The plan type you purchase depends on your medical needs and preferences. There are two types of plans available in the Arkansas insurance exchange, including Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans and Point of Service (POS) plans.
With PPO plans, staying within your network ensures your services are covered. PPOs have a broad network and don’t require a referral for a specialist. The most affordable Silver PPO plan in Arkansas is Ambetter Balanced Care 12 (2021) from Ambetter Arkansas Health & Wellness, which costs an average of $387 per month.
On the other hand, POS plans cover all services, regardless of whether you stay in or out of the provider network. Costs for out-of-network services, however, are higher. These plans are ideal if you’re looking for flexibility to see any provider with the possibility of getting a more affordable in-network service. The cheapest POS plan in Arkansas is HA Silver Plan AW1 by Health Advantage, costing an average of $416 per month.
Cheapest Plan in Arkansas With an HSA
If you don’t go to the doctor very often, you may be hesitant to purchase health insurance since you may not need to use it. An option to consider is purchasing a Health Saving Account (HSA) plan. Not only do these plans have low monthly premiums, but you also have the choice to make pre-tax contributions, which turn into savings if not used for medical expenses.
In Arkansas, there are HSA options for Bronze, Silver and Gold tiers.
- Cheapest HSA Expanded Bronze Plan: Bronze Plan HSA1 by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield costs an average of $370 per month
- Cheapest HSA Silver Plan: Ambetter Balanced Care 25 HSA (2021) by Ambetter from Arkansas Health and Wellness costs an average of $410 per month
- Cheapest HSA Gold Plan: Gold Plan HSA1 by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield costs an average of $557 per month
The risk with HSA plans is the possibility of using your savings when you have a health emergency resulting in significant medical expenses.
What to Know About Health Insurance in Arkansas
For this analysis, MoneyGeek used data from private plans available in the Health Insurance Marketplace for Arkansas, but you may find plans with lower premiums when you apply for them. In addition, those who live in Arkansas who are older or have lower income may be eligible for government healthcare programs such as Medicaid or Medicare. These are likely to be less expensive than private plans available in the Marketplace.
Private Health Insurance on the Arkansas Marketplace
Private plans found in the Health Insurance Marketplace follow a metal tier system. Plans in each metal tier have varying premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. The tiers determine the share of medical expenses your insurance provider covers but do not affect the quality of the care you receive.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages for each metal tier:
Bronze – Of the widely available plans, Bronze plans have lower premiums but will cost you more out of pocket if you need medical care. However, when you meet your deductible or you’ve reached your out-of-pocket max, your insurance provider will cover around 60% of your health expenses.
Expanded Bronze – The advantages of an Expanded Bronze policy are similar to a Bronze one. The difference lies in the share covered by insurance providers, which is up to 65%.
Silver – These have premiums that typically fall midway between Bronze and Gold plans. Silver plans are beneficial if you qualify for cost-saving reductions, saving you thousands of dollars per year. Silver plans have lower rates than Gold plans while having deductibles and out-of-pocket maxes lower than Bronze and Expanded Bronze policies.
Gold – You need to pay a higher premium per month for Gold plans. Its advantage lies in its lower deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. Once you meet your deductible, Gold plans require your insurance provider to cover around 80% of your medical expenses.
Your income level can also qualify you for cheaper health insurance in Arkansas compared to plans from MoneyGeek’s analysis. Households that earn an annual income between 100% and 400% of the federal property level can qualify for premium tax credits. For instance, this applies to a two-person household in Arkansas that earns between $17,420 and $69,680 each year. To get a detailed computation, you can use the healthcare.gov calculator.
You can enroll in a new plan or choose to renew your existing one during open enrollment. It typically happens from November and December every year. Currently, however, enrollment dates have been expanded due to COVID-19.
Gold plan coverage with Silver plan costs is possible if you qualify for certain deductions. Purchasing a Silver plan gets you cost-sharing reductions if your income falls between 138% to 250% of the federal poverty level. For a two-person household, this means an annual income of $24,040 to $43,550. These result in lowered deductibles and coinsurance or copayments. It also lessens your out-of-pocket maximum.
Medicaid in Arkansas
Medicaid is a government healthcare program that provides coverage for those who are qualified. Arkansas, being a Medicaid expansion state, determines your eligibility based solely on income. Therefore, if your earnings are below 138% of the federal poverty level, you can enroll in Medicaid to get coverage.
Medicare in Arkansas
Medicare, also a government healthcare program, is another viable option for coverage. Unlike Medicaid, you’ll have to pay for some coverage, but this still comes out as a more affordable health insurance option than buying a private plan from the Marketplace. Those who can enroll in Medicare include people 65 or older and individuals with qualifying disabilities or illnesses.
These are the three parts to Medicare:
- Part A: Covers expenses caused by hospital stays, care in hospice and skilled-nurse facilities and some home care services
- Part B: Covers expenses caused by outpatient care, medical supplies, doctor’s services and preventive services
- Part D: Covers expenses caused by the purchase of prescription drugs, recommended shots and vaccines
MoneyGeek's research is based on estimates, and the cheapest plan for you will depend on your individual needs and characteristics. This analysis is intended to serve as a guide and no single plan is guaranteed to be the cheapest in Arkansas for you
MoneyGeek collected plans and premiums for health insurance in Arkansas from the Health Insurance Exchange Public Use Files (Exchange PUFs) for all available metal tiers and across several age groups.
Health insurance premiums on this page are an estimate and exclude potential premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies that users may be eligible for.
About Mark Fitzpatrick
- Medicaid.gov. "Medicaid." Accessed June 16, 2021.