Insurance program for low-income Nevadans facing cutbacks

Published Fri, Oct 13, 2017 (1:18 a.m.)

Updated Fri, Oct 13, 2017 (11:38 a.m.)

CARSON CITY — The state exchange that helps 89,000 low-income Nevadans obtain health insurance is being hit with federal cutbacks that could hurt the program.

Heather Korbulic, executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, said Thursday she was “deeply concerned” about the reductions ordered by the Trump administration.

The system is to start Nov. 1 signing up new members or those who want to change their coverage. The government has cut the enrollment period to 45 days from 90 days in the past.

The state will now pay $7.2 million to the federal government for its computer program for signing up individuals and checking their eligibility. That’s up from $5.5 million.

The government’s computer system will be closed for 12 hours on Sundays for maintenance. Korbulic worries about that long of a period.

She told her board of directors, “I am concerned that the Sunday outages could have a disproportionate impact on our consumers as a result of Nevada being a 24-hour state where many of our consumers work graveyard or night shifts.”

The federal government is providing fewer services and charging more. And she said after the meeting it could lower the number of persons enrolled.

“The decrease in service and the increase in cost is unacceptable,” she said.

In addition, the government is reducing from $100 million to $10 million the amount it will spend on advertising the insurance services in the states.

But Korbulic said her exchange intends to spend $3.2 million in advertisements to help people understand what is available.

Signups start Nov. 1 and conclude Dec. 15.

Because of the many changes in the health insurance system, Korbulic is encouraging people to check their policies.

There were four companies that wrote policies for those in the exchange. But that will be reduced next year to two — Health Plan of Nevada and SilverSummit.

The state Insurance Division authorized a 36 percent increase in premiums in this program. But Korbulic said most consumers in the system will see little impact because their higher subsidies will cover that.

The 36 percent applies only to Health Plan of Nevada since SilverSummit only started offering policies next year.

But there is concern whether the government will help persons with low cost policy coverage pay large medical bills that accumulate.

Korbulic said she has posed “a long list of questions” to the Center for Medicaid and Medicaid Services but hasn’t received any answers or adequate responses.

The encouraging news is that she has received help from five advisory groups that will help by promoting and explaining the program.

When the program started, the system hired a private company to run the enrollment and eligibility system. That company was fired and the exchange brought onto the federal system.

Korbulic said the state is now working to run its own computer network, which should be in place by 2020.

The exchange is supported by the insurance companies and the rate charged consumers.

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