Health insurance exchange arrives
The Affordable Care Act, unaffectionately known as Obamacare, officially launched this morning.
Jon Hager, executive director of the Silver State Health Exchange, said the system was set to go live at 8 a.m., allowing people who want to check out the available health care plans to sign on and sign up.
But he said the really important date for consumers is Dec. 15.
“That’s the deadline for them to enroll and pay for their coverage to be effective Jan. 1,” Hager said.
And he said that hopefully, the computer program and the “navigators” hired and trained to help people find a plan that meets their needs as well as insurance agents and brokers are all ready to go.
Hager said more than 200 navigators are “mostly ready to go,” as are about 1,600 brokers ready and willing to sell through the exchange.
That, he said, is important because only by buying through the exchange do consumers get the premium subsidies from the federal government that, in many cases, can cover the vast majority of the monthly cost. Those subsidies could reduce the monthly cost form about $200 to just $44 in some cases.
He said he and his staffers, along with the computer contractor and others, spent the weekend trying to work out the final bugs.
“There are things that aren’t working quite right,” he said. “We’ll be working on fixing those, improving the tools over the next several months.
“But the switch turns on (Tuesday), for better or worse.”
However, consumers might be wise to wait until the kinks are worked out and all the functions of the state’s health insurance exchange website, nevadahealthlink.com, are running smoothly.
“There are bugs. There are things we’re finding. There are glitches,” said Shawna DeRousse, chief operations officer for Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, a state agency created to oversee Nevada’s online insurance marketplace.
Health exchanges are part of President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care reform law that requires everyone to have medical insurance by 2014 or pay a fine. Nevada was one of the first states to take steps implementing a statewide exchange.
About 22 percent of Nevadans — roughly 617,000 — lack health insurance.
Under the law, people making up to four times the federal poverty level are eligible for federal subsidies to reduce the amount of their monthly premium. That threshold is $45,960 for a single person and $94,200 for a family of four.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval agreed to expand Medicaid coverage in Nevada, as called for under the law, meaning thousands of people previously ineligible for benefits — mainly single adults without children — will now qualify if they make less than $15,415 a year.
Four insurance carriers are offering policies through Nevada’s Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, but only two, Nevada Health Co-op and Anthem, offer plans statewide. The other carriers are Saint Mary’s and Heath Plan of Nevada, which exclude coverage in 10 rural counties. Rates for residents vary depending on where they live, how old they are and their annual income.
Sandra Chereb of The Associated Press contributed to this report.