Around 8,000 rural Nevadans will have few options for health insurance next year.
The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange announced at its public board meeting earlier this week that residents in 14 Nevada counties will not have access to Qualified Health Plans (QHPs). These are insurance plans certified by the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act and qualify for subsidies to lower costs.
Only Clark, Nye and Washoe counties will have options on the Exchange in 2018.
Nevada Division of Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson expressed disappointment in a written statement, saying the division is “concerned that Nevadans in 14 out of the state’s 17 counties will not have access in 2018 to subsidies and cost sharing assistance provided under the Affordable Care Act.”
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval also expressed concern. “The reduced footprint of carriers on the Exchange will leave more than 8,000 Nevadans with no coverage, and that is unacceptable,” he said. “The expansion of Medicaid and subsidized Qualified Health Plans in Nevada has helped to dramatically reduce uninsured rates for these individuals. Lack of coverage in rural Nevada will set back years of work to reduce the uninsured rate throughout our state.”
Silver State Exchange officials and others blame current uncertainty surrounding the Republican healthcare bill under consideration in Congress. The threat of removing the individual mandate to purchase insurance is proving too risky for insurance companies, according to reports.
“Enforcement of the individual mandate is critical to the ongoing enrollment on the exchange,” said Heather Korbulic, executive director for the Silver State Exchange. “If the federal government does not enforce the federal mandate, consumers who are healthy are more unlikely to purchase health insurance… and that drives up the costs for everybody.”
Anthem, which has been a major option on the Exchange in rural Nevada, released a statement saying “the Nevada individual market remains volatile, making planning and pricing for ACA-compliant health plans increasingly difficult due to a shrinking and deteriorating individual market, as well as continual changes and uncertainty in federal operations, rules and guidance.”
The company did announce that it will still offer an off-market catastrophic plan to all Nevadans.
Korbulic considers the situation “a healthcare crisis for rural Nevada, and it is extremely concerning to me that thousands of Nevadans may lose access to affordable healthcare.”
Sandoval and officials are holding out hope it can convince providers to change their minds and serve rural Nevada. “My administration is working diligently to identify solutions to ensure there is, at the very least, a safety net available to rural Nevada residents who will be left without any options for coverage in the wake of these devastating and unfortunate decisions,” Sandoval said. He later added, “My office has been engaged with the carriers, the Exchange and the [Division of Insurance], and I am hopeful that we will find a solution that will benefit consumers in our state’s bare counties.”