Enrollment targets for Nevada’s health insurance exchange were lowered substantially Wednesday by state officials who now say the number of people expected to sign up for coverage will be less than half of initial projections.
CJ Bawden, spokesman for the exchange that operates the state’s online web portal, Nevada Health Link, said the newest projections are for 50,000 enrollments by March 31, the deadline for people to sign up and avoid tax penalties. The exchange had hoped to enroll 118,000 people by the deadline.
But even the lower target may be ambitious. To reach that threshold, the exchange will have to sign up about the same number of people in the next six weeks as it did in the previous four months.
Sign-ups have lagged, with only 23,686 people selecting plans on the exchange as of last week. Of those, 16,030 have actually paid their premiums to ensure coverage.
Nationally, most states are still lagging when it comes to sign-ups under President Barack Obama’s health care law, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But in all, from Oct. 1 through Feb. 1, nearly 3.3 million people have signed up.
In Nevada, the lower-than-expected enrollment raises questions about the exchange’s financial sustainability. Operations this year are being funded through federal grants, but that funding expires in 2015 and Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he will not use state general funds to keep it going.
Because of that mandate, the board overseeing the exchange approved monthly fees that are tacked on to premiums for each policy sold to build up a reserve for future operating costs.
For 2014, health insurance plans that don’t include dental coverage are charged $4.95 per month. Those that include dental are assessed $5.31, while the fee for stand-along dental coverage is 36 cents.
Officials have not yet responded to questions on what enrollment targets are needed to cover next year’s operating costs or what kind of fee increases consumers may face given the lower enrollment projections.
The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Board is expected to discuss the latest data when it meets today in Carson City.