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Signups for Nevada health insurance exchange decline

Updated December 19, 2018 - 4:54 pm

The number of Nevadans signing up for a health insurance plan through the state-based marketplace declined by 8 percent this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported Wednesday.

More than 83,600 Nevadans bought a plan for 2019 from the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange during the 45-day open-enrollment period ending Dec. 15, compared with 91,000 last year, the numbers showed.

The data, which were preliminary and didn’t include residents who were in the process of signing up at 9 p.m. on the deadline day, were disappointing, said Heather Korbulic, executive director of the exchange.

“That means something for consumers who are potentially going without insurance or who potentially purchased non-comprehensive plans,” she said.

Korbulic said she expects to receive a report from CMS next week that will further break down the numbers, possibly providing insight into what contributed to the enrollment decline.

Still, Korbulic said she worried that some Nevadans opted out of health coverage because of the federal repeal of the individual mandate or purchased “junk” short-term, limited-duration plans, which may not abide by the Affordable Care Act rules requiring certain benefits.

Korbulic and her staff also heard during the enrollment period from consumers worried that their immigration statuses could be affected by enrolling in a subsidized plan after the Trump administration proposed a “public charge” rule. The confusion could have led to decreased enrollment, she said, though the evidence is anecdotal.

And it’s possible more people received insurance through an employer.

Despite the enrollment decline in Nevada and nationwide — nearly 289,000 fewer Americans chose an exchange plan this year — Korbulic called the Affordable Care Act that created the exchanges “resilient.”

“I say that because even though the exchange has seen a decrease in enrollment for this year, we swam upstream the entire enrollment period,” she said. “We worked hard to overcome federal volatility and messaging that is misleading.”

Switching from the federal Healthcare.gov website to a state-run platform next year should help, as exchange officials will have access to real-time data on its consumers so messaging can be adjusted to target populations where sign-ups are lagging, Korbulic said.

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

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