By Senator Catherine Cortez Masto

As the holiday season approaches, Nevadans have the opportunity to ensure that they have the health insurance coverage they need to protect their families and their finances in the New Year. Those looking to purchase health insurance on the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange have until December 15th to review new plans, consult with enrollment professionals and decide on an option that works best for them and their families.

Information about this year’s open enrollment season can be found at NevadaHealthLink.com, or at 855-7NVLINK. Through an easy-to-navigate website, or with the help of a free, personal healthcare navigator, Nevada residents can compare insurance plans, estimate their healthcare costs, and sign up for an insurance option that meets their needs. Licensed enrollment professionals can also help determine your eligibility for federal tax credits, cost-sharing subsidies or other financial assistance. In fact, more than 80% of Nevadans who enroll in a health plan with Nevada Health Link are eligible for some type of federal financial assistance on their monthly health insurance payments.

Insurance rates for each Nevada county are expected to decrease by around 0.4% from last year. Heather Korbulic, Executive Director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, told Nevadans in a recent interview that they can expect to see “low-cost, no-cost options again” as well as stability in the plans offered in our rural counties.

Though this year’s open enrollment season looks very similar to last year’s, there is one major change Nevadans should be aware of: the increased availability of short-term health plans that do not provide full coverage for basic healthcare services. These plans, while potentially cheaper in the short term, can lead to unexpected price hikes and often lack coverage for essential health benefits like emergency room visits and maternity care. Instead of making healthcare more affordable, these ‘junk plans’ raise premiums for other consumers, can deny protections to patients with pre-existing conditions and often leave consumers with unexpected extra fees. Korbulic suggests all Nevadans consult with one of Nevada Health Link’s free enrollment professionals before determining if one of these plans truly serves their needs.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Nevadans all across the state are able to purchase affordable, quality health insurance plans on the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. The ACA, and the accompanying Medicaid expansion Nevada enacted in 2014, has already helped more than 400,000 Nevadans gain health insurance. A recent study showed that in Nevada’s rural communities, the uninsured rate has dropped from 42% in 2008-2009 to 14% in 2015-2016. Rural hospitals have also received millions of dollars that have helped them continue to provide care to their communities. Yet more needs to be done to ensure that healthcare services are available to Nevadans throughout the Silver State. I am committed to fighting for legislation that reduces prescription drug prices, lowers premiums, and ensures that every hardworking family in our state has the healthcare their family needs.

Throughout my time in the Senate, Nevadans have continually voiced their support for protecting their healthcare and reducing costs. The Silver State’s successes in reducing the uninsured rate, providing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and expanding access to preventative care; all highlight the importance of fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act and ensuring that important programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are strengthened. As we head into the New Year, and a new Congress, I am confident that my colleagues and I will work together in Washington, D.C. to stabilize the healthcare marketplaces and ensure that quality, affordable health insurance is available to every Nevadan.