Guest column:

Nevadans can still benefit from ACA

It has been seven years since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Despite constant changes creating hurdle after hurdle, staff at the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, Nevada’s state agency that helps individuals obtain affordable health coverage, has continued to press forward. Our small but mighty team remains focused on facilitating the purchase and sale of health insurance plans that provide quality coverage through a transparent, simplified marketplace of qualified health plans.

Last year, the open enrollment period in the federal Health Insurance Marketplace lasted three months. This year, it spans only 45 days, ending this Friday after beginning Nov. 1. Despite the shortened time frame, enrollment numbers are strong. As of week four of open enrollment, more than 27,000 Nevadans have signed up for health insurance through the exchange, up 30 percent over the same time period for plan year 2017.

In addition to ongoing and hopefully increasing numbers of enrollees, we are seeing an increase in traffic on our NevadaHealthLink.com website as well as a steady influx of calls into our customer assistance call center. In the first week of enrollment, we saw an increase of 133 percent from last year at the Nevada Health Link call center. The exchange is encouraged by this increased traffic and remain optimistic that the work being done at the exchange and the message we are conveying is being heard throughout the state. Despite all of the political rhetoric surrounding the ACA, consumers are taking the time to educate themselves on insurance and are taking a vested interest in learning more about the importance in having coverage for themselves and their families.

With the last week of open enrollment upon us, the staff at the exchange continues to build relationships with stakeholders and community partners, since these relationships are an integral part of our work being done. Without these partners, we would not be nearly as successful in letting people know there are affordable health plans available and there are enrollment assisters available to help navigate through the process.

Some of the most common misconceptions about purchasing insurance from an exchange-based marketplace relate to costs. Financial help is available, and we estimate that 85 percent of Nevadans who enroll in a plan through the exchange are eligible for financial assistance (subsidies) to help offset monthly premiums. Many Nevadans can find low-cost to no-cost health plans, thanks to the assistance of subsidies. Consumers often hear about price increases and are justifiably concerned, but it is important to note that when premiums rise, so does a consumer’s subsidy. So we are finding that the majority of exchange enrollees will have little or no impact with the rise in premiums.

Health care can be confusing, especially with all of the conflicting information being circulated at the federal level. That said, Nevada residents can rest assured that we remain committed to upholding the exchange’s mission to reduce the number of uninsured throughout the Silver State. We continue to implement and improve upon access to qualified health plans. For more information, visit NevadaHealthLink.com or call 855-768-5465.

Janel Davis is the communications officer for the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.