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Record number of Nevadans enroll on health insurance exchange

Updated December 21, 2017 - 7:37 pm

President Donald Trump predicted the Affordable Care Act would “implode,” but a record number of Nevadans signed up for health insurance this year through the state’s exchange during a shortened enrollment period, it was reported Thursday.

Nearly 91,000 Nevadans enrolled in coverage for 2018 through the state’s Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show. That exceeded the state’s enrollment numbers for last year by about 1,900.

Interest in the so-called Obamacare policies in Nevada exceeded national levels. Overall, about 8.8 million Americans enrolled for health insurance through the federal healthcare.gov exchange this year, down from last year’s 9.2 million.

About seven in 10 enrollees in Nevada were returning customers, state data show.

“Given the shortened enrollment period and the federal uncertainty surrounding the health care marketplace, I am pleased the 2018 enrollment numbers have exceeded enrollment from 2017,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, said in a news release.

Officials worried the shorter enrollment period — 45 days vs. 90 days in previous years — would sharply reduce sign-ups. Heather Korbulic, executive director of Nevada’s exchange, and her colleagues also worried that criticism of the insurance program by Trump and other Republicans in Washington and talk of dismantling it would sow confusion among consumers and affect enrollment.

So the state exchange bolstered its marketing efforts, which Korbulic said was key.

“Despite the challenges of this year’s open-enrollment period and the political rhetoric surrounding the Affordable Care Act, the exchange saw firsthand how much our citizens want and need health coverage,” she said in the release.

Cheaper plans for most

In October, the White House announced it would do away with cost-sharing reductions — payments to insurers that offer subsidized plans to lower-income Americans. While experts worried that would drive up premiums, insurers used an alternative subsidy called advance premium tax credits to make up for the cut.

The new model actually lowered premiums for many purchasers who fell below the 400 percent poverty level, according to Kaiser Family Foundation calculations.

For those enrolling in a plan without a subsidy, however, the monthly cost rose an average of 38 percent from last year to this. For many middle-class Nevadans, that made the new premiums unaffordable, Korbulic previously told the Review-Journal.

About 15 percent of last year’s plans sold in the state were purchased by consumers ineligible for subsidies.

Healthcare.gov, the federal enrollment website that powers exchanges in 39 states, including Nevada, experienced its usual surge in the last days of the open enrollment period. In previous years, that caused frequent technical problems that prevented some would-be buyers from completing the process.

For the first time this year, that didn’t happen, CMS said Thursday.

“Our goal from the beginning was to empower patients across the health-care delivery system and make sure that Americans who chose to enroll in the exchanges had a good customer experience while making enrollment more cost efficient. … The results show that we accomplished our goal,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a news release.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of Americans who signed up for insurance on the healthcare.gov exchange.

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

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