In the face of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, President Joe Biden reopened enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges.
For Nevadans, that means the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange is back in business.
The exchange connects Nevadans to health plans compliant with the Affordable Care Act, and it’s the only place consumers can access any federal subsidies.
“As soon as Nevada learned of the news from the federal government, we took immediate action to plan and collaborate with our insurance carriers and the statewide network of 750-plus brokers and navigators to implement a seamless, streamlined process for Nevadans,” said Heather Korbulic, executive director of Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.
Korbulic told KNPR's State of Nevada that there has already been a lot of interest from people around the state.
"We're pretty excited about the uptake that we've already started seeing and we think this is a wonderful opportunity for Nevadans to get connected to Nevada HealthLink," she said.
She said within the first week, which started February 15, the exchange had 600 enrollments. Korbulic calls that number "significant."
"We're really enthusiastic about getting into the weeds and doing some outreach to folks that are typically underinsured or potentially uninsured for a variety of different reasons. This gives us extra time to do that," she said.
Korbulic said it is a tricky time to state an exact goal because everything is fluid because of the pandemic, but her team would like to find as many uninsured Nevadas as possible and get them connected to coverage.
An estimated 400,000 Nevadans don't have health insurance. Of those, 120,000 qualify for subsidies from the federal government to help pay for health insurance. Some of those subsidies push the price of premiums to zero.
Korbulic said there was an increase in enrollment of 6 percent during the regular open enrollment period in the fall. There was also a large jump in the number of people applying for Medicaid benefits.
"People are losing their jobs and losing their health insurance," she said, "Now, they're moving onto the exchange and onto Medicaid."
She noted that those programs are supposed to be a safety net for people during difficult times.
Korbulic believes this extended open enrollment is an opportunity to get the message out about the exchange because normally open enrollment hits during the holiday season when people are less likely to take the time to choose health care insurance.
In addition, this past fall was filled with a contentious election.
"It was a difficult time to do direct messaging," she said, "We're really enthusiastic about this opportunity to get some outreach to people who may not have heard about us during our traditional open enrollment."
Korbulic is also optimistic about potential changes to who can qualify for federal subsidies to pay for plans in the exchange. She said changes built into the new COVID relief bill would have an important and dramatic impact on Nevadans.
"Basically, anybody who is not on Medicare or Medicaid or who doesn't have a plan through their employer is going to be eligible for some financial assistance to help them pay for comprehensive health insurance," she said.
She said if the changes get passed it could expand coverage for thousands of Nevadans. Plus, the changes could happen during the extended open enrollment.
The extended enrollment period continues until May 15, and more information is available at NevadaHealthLink.com or by calling (800) 547-2927.
Heather Korbulic, executive director, Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.
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