Finding a health plan that is affordable and usable can be frustrating for many, and that is why officials are encouraging people to talk to insurance experts before the open enrollment deadline. People have until Saturday at midnight to sign up for health insurance on the exchange for 2019.

"If you don't have health insurance at all or through your employer, if you're not on Medicaid or you're not 65 or over, eligible for Medicare, then Nevada Health Link would be an option for you," Janel Davis, Communications Director for Nevada Health Link said.

Davis says 80 percent of its enrollees receive federal subsidies, so it is important for people to see what they qualify for. A good way to find the best plan is to talk to a broker. Aaron Ware is a producer for Jewels Benefits. He says many people do not know how affordable some plans are until they ask him.

"I had a single mom come in, a couple weeks ago, had no idea, just really fearful, doesn't know what it's going to cost," Ware said. "We got her a plan with a zero dollar deductible, $1,800 maximum out-of-pocket, and cost here $60 a month."

Ware says there are many success stories like this but many people are unaware of what plans are out there, or are frustrated by the enrollment process.

"Most of the people that I'm dealing with sort of reach their wits end and then reach out to a broker but once they do, we're able to get them really good plans," Ware said.

By the end of the 2018 enrollment period, about 91,000 Nevadans bought their health insurance on the exchange. After the first five weeks of the 2019 enrollment period, only about 31,000 people had purchased a plan through Nevada Health Link. About 55,000 plans are expected to automatically renew. Still, numbers are expected to drop because the individual mandate has been lifted. Since they are not required to buy insurance, they biggest drop is expected in people between the ages of 26 and 45 because many are healthy adults who do not go to the doctor very much. 

"We expect them 'Oh, I'm healthy. I'm just gonna drop off of my health insurance plan and not pay my premium,'" Davis said.

Davis says she does not recommend that and says insurance rates could increase in the future if fewer people enroll. Nevada Health Link is increasing its marketing and advertising funding through the final week to encourage higher participation.

"Having health insurance protects you and your family if an unexpected medical event were to occur," Davis said. "We don't know when we could get into accidents."

"Life happens," Ware said. "You could have accidents, you can get ill. Anything can happen to you and medical bills dramatically change your life."

Davis says if people have any questions about finding a health insurance plan, the call center is open between 8-5, every day. That will include the final day of enrollment, Saturday, December 15. People can also log onto nevadahealthlink.com to find a plan. The call center and website can both put people in contact with a broker, as well.

"Know what you're shopping for and know what you're buying before you actually pay the price for your plan," Davis said.

Davis says the average insurance rate is .4 percent less than it was a year ago, signaling that the market place is stabilizing. If people miss the deadline to sign up for insurance, there will be a special enrollment period in the future but not everybody qualifies.

"If you have a qualifying life event such as having a baby, getting married, job change, income change, you would be eligible to enroll any time throughout the year," Davis said.

The strong economy could also have an impact on the number of people who enroll for 2019. Since the unemployment rate is lower, more people may be getting insurance through their employers. While that is good news for people getting insured, it could mean fewer people purchasing a plan through the exchange.

The statement below is from Heather Korbulic, Executive Director of the Silver State Heath Exchange:
 
“The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts. The Nevada Exchange and all exchanges through the nation are still open for business and will continue with open enrollment. There is NO impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan. The deadline to enroll in a Qualified Health Plan for 2019 remains today (Dec. 15) at midnight.  You can still enroll in person at many of the offices listed on NevadaHealthLink.com (check hours), or by calling 1-855-7NVLINK (1-855-768-5465).”
 
--Heather Korbulic, Executive Director, Silver State Health Insurance Exchange