Nye sixth in Obamacare enrollments in Nevada

Data recently released by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ showed that 997 residents in Nye County enrolled in Obamacare during the latest enrollment period, a health care option that U.S. House Republicans recently voted to eliminate.

The 2017 open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplaces began on Nov. 1, 2016, and ended on Jan. 31, 2017. Nye was sixth statewide. Clark County reported the highest number of enrollees, 64,114, followed by Washoe County with 15,902, Douglas County 2,363, Carson City 1,537, and Lyon County 1,396.

Out of 997 enrollees in Nye County, 846 were able to receive Advance Premium Tax Credit which a patient can take in advance to lower a monthly health insurance premium. The average Advance Premium Tax Credit in Nye County was $319, the data showed.

On May 4, House Republicans voted to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act. The bill, titled the American Health Care Act, has yet to go through the Senate, where it’s likely to face opposition from the Democrats. President Donald Trump, however, praised the measure saying that Obamacare is “essentially dead.”

“Yes, premiums will be coming down, yes, deductibles will be coming down, but very importantly, it’s a great plan, and ultimately, that’s what it’s all about,” Trump said after the House vote.

The bill is set to overhaul the national health care system. Among the major proposed changes is how the federal government pays for individual health plans and Medicaid. Another provision in the bill would allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions more than those who are healthy.

“We knew it was not going to work. I predicted it a long time ago, I said it’s failing and now it’s obvious that it’s failing. It’s dead, it’s essentially dead,” Trump said about Obamacare.

Nevada’s delegation

U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, whose 4th Congressional District includes Nye County, condemned the Republican-backed bill.

“In Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District, rural communities will have less access to health care options, older Americans will face an “age tax,” paying premiums five times higher than what others pay, and families will have higher deductibles and increased out-of-pocket costs. My Republican colleagues should be ashamed, and I am disappointed they have sold out the American people,” Kihuen, D-North Las Vegas, said in a statement.

U.S. Reps. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, and Jacky Rosen, D-Henderson, who also voted against the American Health Care Act, issued scathing statements criticizing the measure. U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei of Carson City, Nevada’s only Republican representative in the House, voted for the bill.

The House Republicans suffered a setback in late March when they had to cancel the vote on a bill that aimed to dismantle Obamacare because the legislation failed to gain enough support.

Timeline for possible changes

Janel Davis, communications officer at Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, said that as the Affordable Health Care Act is currently written, the changes to the tax subsidy structure are not effective until 2020, and changes will not impact consumers for at least several more years.

“Consumers who are currently enrolled in a Qualified Health Plan through the Affordable Care Act and the Nevada Health Link should not be worried for this upcoming open enrollment in 2017,” Davis said. “Rate filings are going to occur, and carriers and signing on, and again our focus is going to be on protecting Nevada consumers and their current and future plans connecting them to health insurance.”

Nevada operates as a state-based marketplace using the federal technology platform, healthcare.gov, for eligibility and enrollment purposes.

The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange is a state agency that holds the online marketplace organization, Nevada Health Link, where individuals can shop for and compare plans to see if they are eligible for a subsidy through the Affordable Care Act. Nevada is an expanded Medicaid state, and once an individual’s eligibility is determined based on their income, consumers either shop for a Qualified Health Plan through healthcare.gov or get redirected to Medicaid.

Davis said each year, the Nevada Exchange saw an increase in the number of enrollments in the state.

The 2016 enrollment season marked a record-breaking 88,145 Nevada enrollees – a more than 20 percent spike compared to 2015. The Exchange more than doubled its enrollment, from approximately 32,000 enrollees in 2014 and 75,000 enrollees in 2015.

During the past open enrollment period, the Nevada Exchange still managed to increase enrollments, with 89,061 enrollees.

If the subsidies go away, it will impact all of Nevadans accessing plans through the Exchange, including Nye County, Davis said.

“These individuals would no longer have access to assistance to pay for health insurance plans and would likely be unable to afford the cost of an insurance plan without assistance,” she said. “Hospital systems and providers would also be impacted by their patients losing insurance whereby they would be exposed to uncompensated care losses.”

Representatives from Desert View Hospital in Pahrump declined to comment on how a repeal of Obamacare would affect it.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77