Sandoval: Nevada right to create own health exchange

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval said Tuesday the state made the right decision when it decided to move forward with the creation of its own health exchange to comply with the new federal health care law.

Nevada has 513 people who have paid for or who have scheduled payments for health insurance. When the 1,484 people who have confirmed enrollments and who will soon get a bill in the mail are counted, the total is just under 2,000.

While that’s a small number, the state compares favorably to the numbers reported in other states, Sandoval said.

Many of the problems people are encountering with the federally run exchanges in 36 other states have not materialized in Nevada, even though there have been some issues getting Nevada Health Link running smoothly, he said.

Sandoval made his comments after he and other members of the state Board of Examiners heard an update on the operation of the exchange, which launched Oct. 1.

Sandoval, who opposed the federal health care law and joined in a multi-state challenge, nevertheless opted to move forward with a state-run exchange instead of deferring to the federal government to operate a program in Nevada. The creation of an exchange was mandated by the health care law. The Nevada Legislature unanimously approved the creation of the state-run exchange in 2011.

“I felt it was prudent and in Nevada’s best interest to have a state-run exchange,” he said. “And I think that, at least over the course of a month and a half, I think that has proven out to be the more prudent choice.”

Jon Hager, director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, said the exchange has so far identified nearly 26,000 Nevadans who are eligible for a federal tax credit, Medicaid or another state program.

“That is 26,000 Nevadans that did so without the challenges of a federal exchange, without long waits on the Web portal, without long waits on the phone, without poor communications, without a whole lot of frustration that has caused many people in other states to simply give up and pay the federal penalty for not having insurance,” he said.

Nevadans can browse the state link without having to enter personal information, unlike the federal exchange, Hager said.

The 125 navigators helping people find insurance in Nevada have all undergone background checks, unlike the federal exchange where such checks are not required, he said.

There have been issues with the portal but the problems have mostly been addressed, Hager said. Problems are fixed as they are identified, he said.

Nevadan’s personal data is also secure, he said. Information entered in Nevada Health Link is not in danger and is not linked to the federal exchange, Hager said.

The small number of Nevadans who have actually signed up for health insurance presents a challenge, however. The exchange has an enrollment target of 118,000 by March 31, 2014.

“People are taking their time and considering all their options before they go on,” Hager said.

Meanwhile, the Nevada Division of Insurance has reported that nearly 25,000 Nevadans have received cancellation notices or notices of non renewal because their health insurance plans do not meet the standards set by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Hager said there are an estimated 80,000 to 90,000 Nevadans with individually purchased health insurance, and those who need new policies will be able to shop for new coverage at the exchange.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.