Open Enrollment for Health Insurance Exchange Begins Nov. 1 - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Open Enrollment for Health Insurance Exchange Begins Nov. 1

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Nevada will see some changes in the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange in 2018, including plans and pricing. Open enrollment runs from November 1 to December 15. The 45-day sign-up period is half as long as it was last year.  In the meantime, people who plan to sign up for insurance on the exchange are encouraged to start shopping for a plan.

"We think it's critical for people to understand that plans have changed, provider groups have changed, and they need to actively shop the market place in order to know what they're purchasing for themselves and their families," Heather Korbulic, Executive Director of Silver State Health Insurance Exchange said.

"There's always the risk of an event that causes a great deal of medical bills to an individual, so I believe that everyone should have an option to purchase insurance," Mackay Moore, Chief Insurance Examiner of the Life and Health Section at the Nevada Division of Insurance said.

People can sign up for a plan on healthcare.gov, but the website will be unavailable for maintenance Nov. 1 from 9pm to 9am, and every Sunday from 9pm to 9am.  Otherwise, it is open for use 24 hours a day. Korbulic says people should take advantage of open enrollment, even if they are healthy.

"People should access health insurance because medical care is very expensive without insurance and we're all just one medical emergency away from financial ruin or bankruptcy," Korbulic said.

Nevada had four carriers during the last enrollment cycle. That is down to two in Washoe, Clark, and Nye Counties.  The other 14 counties have one insurance provider, after Silver Summit joined the market. Those counties will have four plans to choose from, while the other three will have 14 options.  Officials say the exchange's challenges are mostly a result of uncertainty in Washington, D.C.

"You talk to any insurer and it's just very volatile right now," Mike Willden, Chief of Staff for Gov. Brian Sandoval said. "So, we think that we have to kind of slow down and catch our breath a little bit and be deliberate."

Premiums are expected to rise, with carriers proposing a 15-26 percent increase for individuals. Group plans could drop as much as 14 percent or increase as high as 15 percent.  Prices will be finalized, Monday.

"There will likely be an increase in premiums but it's important for consumers to know that over 80 percent of people who are on the exchange get subsidies and when rates go up, so do the subsidies," Korbulic said. "So, it will be a real minimal impact on most of our consumers."

As congress looks into different ways to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Governor Sandoval says he opposes any plan that would cause Nevadans to lose health care options, shift costs to the state, or have a negative impact on care management principles.

"Things have been working," Willden said. "There are options available and we want to build on that, rather than just turn the apple cart upside-down and start all over."

Nevada's uninsured rate has dropped from about 22 percent to 11 percent since 2013.  89,000 people are on the exchange and about 615,000 are on Medicaid.

"In the last four years, we've seen over 300,000 Nevadans gain health care insurance coverage that they did not have before," Willden said.

Willden says he is not satisfied with the number of uninsured Nevadans, saying the national average is about 8.5 percent.

Everyone is still required to have health insurance or pay a tax of $695 or 2.5 percent of their income, whichever is higher.  Korbulic says that fine is enough to encourage young people to sign up for coverage.

"When we have younger, healthier people participating, it makes our premiums for everybody on the exchange lower," Korbulic said.

People who have a plan with a carrier that is leaving the state will automatically be "crosswalked" to a similar plan with a new carrier.  Still, Korbulic says they should talk to a professional or do their homework on their own to decide which plan works best for them.

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