Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2014

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Health:

Official: State health insurance exchange falls short of projections but is faring better than federal program

The state's system for providing mandatory health insurance for low-income individuals and families won't reach its projections, but it is working better than the federal government's program.

Jon Hager, head of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, told the Nevada Board of Examiners on Tuesday that Nevada's system has not been plagued with the problems encountered by the federal system — there have been troubles, but they are being corrected.

He said, however, it would not reach its predicted enrollment of 118,000 by the first deadline of Dec. 15. So far 1,490 individuals and families have signed up; of those, 513 have paid their premiums to start coverage in January.

Hager said he expected more to sign up with the Silver State exchange as the deadline approaches, especially those who have been notified their present coverage will be canceled.

President Barack Obama said originally that no one would forfeit their existing policy. But if the exiting policy does not measure up to federal standards, it will be canceled. Hager said he is unsure how many Nevadans will lose their insurance policies.

Nevada is one of 15 states that decided to run their own exchanges rather than have the federal government operate the system. The Silver State system has four companies offering health coverage, which allows Nevadans to shop around for a plan with the best coverage for the lowest price, Hager said.

If the individual misses the Dec. 15 enrollment deadline, the next one is March 15. Hager said that if people aren't enrolled for coverage by the deadline, the government will impose a penalty.

In response to a question from Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, Hager said there have been safeguards installed to prevent misuse of the information provided by those who sign up. There have been complaints about lack of security in the federal system.

A Spanish portal will be operational next week.

The names of 16,000 people who were interested in enrolling in the insurance plan have been referred to Medicaid, the scope of which has been expanded to allow more low-income consumers to be covered without paying a premium. Mike Willden, director of the Nevada Human Services Department, said 320,000 people were enrolled in Medicaid at the start of this fiscal year. In two years, that number is expected to grow to 500,000. Since Oct. 1, when the expanded program started, 4,000 people have been accepted to Medicaid, which is financed by both the state and federal government.

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