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Future uncertain for Nevada health insurance exchange due to Obamacare threat

Updated September 21, 2017 - 5:12 pm

Business will continue as usual for Nevada’s Silver State Health Insurance Exchange during the upcoming open enrollment period despite uncertainty over its future in Congress.

Insurance exchange officials, joined by Democratic state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, addressed advisers who will help with the enrollment process Thursday at a meeting in Las Vegas, emphasizing the need for aggressive outreach to Nevada’s estimated 43,000 eligible but non-enrolled residents.

They also said planning will continue ahead of the Nov. 1 beginning of the enrollment period despite the potential that Congress could eliminate the exchange by repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Given the enrollment period will be shorter this year — 45 days instead of 90 — health exchange Executive Director Heather Korbulic told enrollment counselors to focus on getting the word out.

‘Open enrollment is happening’

“Open enrollment is happening regardless of what’s happening with Graham-Cassidy,” Korbulic said, referring to a bill filed last week by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he plans to bring the bill up for a vote next week.

The GOP proposal would repeal the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, eliminating individual and employer mandates and redistrubuting funds for private insurance subsidies and the Medicaid expansion into state block grants.

But even if it passes, Nevada exchange officials said they anticipate the insurance marketplace the ACA created would remain intact for 2018.

For now, the exchange will operate with two insurers offering plans in Clark, Nye and Washoe counties. In Nevada’s remaining 14 rural counties, SilverSummit will offer four plans — one bronze, two silver and one gold.

Consumers can expect anywhere from a 15 to 26 percent increase in bronze and gold plan premiums for 2018, while silver plans will increase between 26 and 39 percent. For the more than 80 percent of exchange participants who receive government subsidies, the impact of those increases will be minimal, Korbulic said.

Filling a marketing void

Exchange enrollment advisers will have access to a Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services list of Nevadans enrolled in the marketplace, which Korbulic said will help the self-funded Silver State exchange conduct outreach previously handled by HealthCare.gov. The federal entity is losing 90 percent of its outreach funding under the Trump administration, eliminating it as the state exchange’s primary marketing agency.

“There’s just so much uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act … that we wanted to get our community partners together … so that we could give them the same messages and separate myth from fact,” Korbulic said.

Nevada Health Link, the insurance market operated under the state exchange, will also launch a new website in time for start of open enrollment in an effort to make the enrollment process more user friendly. Korbulic encouraged enrollment advisors to operate under the presumption that the individual mandate will remain law, reminding that uninsurance can lead to bankrupting hospital bills and uncompensated emergency care.

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

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