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Deadline for Obamacare leads to late push

People enrolled in the Nevada health insurance exchange were busy renewing their coverage Monday on the last day to receive benefits for the year beginning Jan. 1.

“There’s a line out the door at Nevada Co-op. I’m just helping the company enroll clients. The system’s been down a lot today, which is very challenging,” Nicole Hargreaves, a broker with Insurance Town, told the Pahrump Valley Times on Monday. Hargreaves said she has a number of Pahrump clients.

Clients who miss the Monday deadline won’t receive health insurance coverage until Feb. 1, Hargreaves said. It was also the deadline for people to maintain their tax subsidy, she said, which could mean a premium of only $200 per month after the tax subsidy may cost $700, even $800 per month without the subsidy.

The Affordable Care Act mandates American citizens have health insurance.

The fine will increase in 2015, from $94 in 2014, the first year health insurance was mandated under the law, also known as Obamacare, to either 2 percent of a person’s annual income or $325, whichever is higher. Hargreaves said the fine is $112 for a person who misses up to three months of coverage.

A lot of people are signing up for coverage under the Nevada Health Co-op, which was set up by the state to handle enrollment in the system, she said.

Navigators who help people enroll personally report a majority of those seeking health insurance under the Affordable Care Act for the first time in Pahrump and Las Vegas are eligible for Medicaid, after the program was expanded in Nevada.

Single people who make less than $16,100 per year are now eligible for Medicaid.

Hargreaves said an HMO offered under the plan, Health Care Plan of Nevada, is a good fit for Pahrump residents as it covers Desert View Hospital.

Navigators and enrollment assisters for the non-profit organization CARE are making twice monthly trips to Pahrump to help locals enroll in the health insurance exchange who have trouble doing it on line.

CARE will return to the Pahrump Community Library today to help people sign up for the Affordable Care Act, according to Ted DeCorte, CARE chief operating officer. He said they signed up the great majority of people who showed up at previous help sessions at the library.

“Most of the people we see either have cultural or language issues or they’re just not technical. Quite a few older people we see are pre-retirement,” DeCorte said. “They want to come in and have that personal attention.”

During the rollout of the new health care law last year, the system was plagued by computer glitches. DeCorte said the state-run program, Nevada Health Link is now run under the federal program website, www.healthcare.gov.

“Because there are more states involved it’s a better system and used more than the Nevada system. That would be the big issue, making sure that the system worked for Nevadans and this one does seem to be working much better,” DeCorte said. “It’s almost identical to the Nevada system the way it works. The big difference this year is people do not pay the premiums of Health Link, the carriers themselves will be billing people. So I think that will be speeding things up.”

DeCorte said he heard premiums charged by Health Plan of Nevada, or Sierra Health and the Nevada Co-op went up 12 percent, but Anthem plans went down 7 percent.

A fourth provider, Assurant, has been added in Southern Nevada, he said.

Massive sign-up events were held in Las Vegas when enrollment began Nov. 15 at the Rio Resort and the Boulevard Mall. DeCorte said applicants could walk in and meet with Medicaid and health exchange staff and insurance brokers in 35 stations at the Boulevard Mall sign-up.

CARE is one of the navigator groups in Southern Nevada, the other is the Ramirez group. DeCorte said the state performed background checks as if they were insurance brokers, that was followed by additional training at the federal level. Navigators don’t get a commission which is built into the cost of the premiums, he said, they are paid by the state of Nevada.

An individual applying for health insurance through the exchange can receive a tax subsidy on a sliding scale if they earn under $46,000 per year, for a family of four subsidies are available up to $95,000 of annual income.

“There are certain people who are better off seeing a broker if they’re on the cusp at the high end and they don’t know if the benefit of the exchange is worthwhile versus buying something off the market,” DeCorte said.

DeCorte said married couples who file income tax separately are not eligible for the health insurance exchange, they have to file a joint tax form.

“You have to be legally present in the United States and have that documentation,” he said.

Open enrollment in the health insurance exchange lasts until Feb. 15, those who wait until the last minute will receive coverage beginning March 1. People who have a qualifying life event are not restricted to the open enrollment period.

That includes those who lose their health insurance through a job loss or the employer stops coverage; those who turn 26 years old and can no longer enroll in their parents’ plan; those who have a baby or adopt a child that needs to be enrolled; new residents relocating to Nevada; someone who gets married or divorced or loses eligibility for Medicaid or the CHIP program.

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