AP NEWS

Nevada health exchange rates expect to see lowest rise yet

August 6, 2018

LAS VEGAS (AP) — After years of double-digit increases, Nevadans who get health coverage through the online insurance marketplace are only expected to see a slight increase in rates next year.

Nevada insurance officials said the average increase for premiums in Nevada is expected to be 1.9 percent in 2019 — the lowest proposed rate increase since the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014.

Insurance officials say the change comes as the markets have started to stabilize around the country.

Last summer, the stop-and-start effort by Republicans in Congress to repeal the law created lots of instability for insurers offering plans through the online marketplace at HealthCare.gov, where people who don’t have insurance through work or government programs can shop for and enroll in private insurance.

That uncertainty over repeal efforts last year led insurer Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to leave Nevada’s market, leaving about 8,000 Nevadans in 14 counties with no options for coverage to shop for on the exchange. The turmoil in Washington, D.C., also drove up the average price increase for Nevada’s sole remaining insurer, Health Plan of Nevada, to about 37 percent.

Another insurer, Centene Corp., eventually stepped in to offer plans under the name SilverSummit in counties that had no plan.

Both Health Plan of Nevada and SilverSummit are returning to offer plans in the state for 2019.

As the market has stabilized, the insurers seem to have a better understanding of their risk and where to price their plans, according to Heather Korbulic, the executive director of the state’s marketplace, known as the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.

Korbulic said that while rate hikes were high last year, about 80 percent of Nevadans who buy plans through the exchange are eligible for financial assistance, which helped blunt most of the increases.

Nevada Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson said her division is helping to stabilizing the market by becoming more involved with insurers as they start setting rates, working to ensure prices are where they need to be when weighing the risks of the market.

SilverSummit is expanding its offerings this year, giving consumers in every county at least six plans to choose from — up from four last year.

The rates for their plans on average have increased about 5.2 percent from last year.

Health Plan of Nevada, run by United Healthcare, is offering plans only in Clark, Nye and Washoe counties this year, as it did last year. The prices for their nine plans, on average, are expected to remain the same as they were this year.

The rates could change before they’re finalized in October — especially if President Donald Trump’s administration announces more changes to weaken the Obama-era law.

So far, Nevada has a buffer from some of the changes the Trump administration has undertaken, such as cutting the funds for marketing the program and for people trained to help consumers shop and enroll in plans.

The state doesn’t rely on federal money for marketing or enrollment assistance, but other changes, like a shorter enrollment window, have affected the state.

AP RADIO
Update hourly