A week from today, the Affordable Care Act might come under attack as the Supreme Court readies to hear a federal lawsuit brought by Republicans looking to dismantle what is commonly known as Obamacare.
Meanwhile, Monday morning, Heather Korbulic, returning head of Nevada’s federally supported Silver State Health Exchange was joined by Gov. Steve Sisolak, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Sen. Jacky Rosen and Attorney General Aaron Ford to let the Nevadans know what their affordable health insurance options are in the face of this possible change.
Officials forecast a massive loss of health coverage
After about a decade in existence, the ACA faces challenges that many officials on a local and national level feel will negatively impact coverage for millions of Americans.
Coverage for nearly 135 million Americans with preexisting conditions “will be gutted,” Ford said. “More than 20 million Americans will lose coverage,” he added. “The uninsured rate will obviously increase.”
Ford also quoted a host of numbers to clarify how a possible repeal of ACA will impact day-to-day health care coverage. About 65% of Medicaid expansion, which covers 17 million people, will be on the line, he said. Nearly 12 million seniors will have to pay more for prescription drugs. Additionally, 2.3 million adult children will no longer be able to stay on their parents’ insurance. Insurance companies will be able to charge women more than men. Contraceptive coverage for 60 million people who now have access to birth control with no out-of-pocket cost is at stake. Financial assistance that helps nine million people to purchase health care in the marketplace “will go away,” Ford said.
Key support for rural hospitals will be eliminated. Already struggling hospitals will be hit even harder as the costs increase, Ford added.
Ford also said that a coalition of attorney generals across states, including him, are gearing up to protect the ACA.
“It’s not just Nevada fighting. A coalition of two dozen attorney generals are fighting,” he said.
The ACA mandates coverage of 10 conditions, also known as the 10 essential benefits, including mental health, pregnancy, childbirth, prescription drugs, emergency services and the coverage of several pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, sleep apnea, cancer and obesity.
“That is key,” said Cortez Masto to make health insurance reach a larger population. The litigators “want to take it away,” she said.
Rosen reminded Nevadans that all of the hard work put into covering pre-existing conditions will go away if the ACA is repealed.
“Healthcare coverage, while it is always important, is more important than ever. I am glad to hear you say that all of your plans do cover COVID-19 because we are not sure what kind of health issues the pandemic is going to carry with it going on into the future,” Rosen said.
Nevada’s health insurance options
This year Nevada Health Link is offering 50 plans through five different carriers making it double the amount of plans provided last year, said Korbulic.
Korbulic also explained how health care is being extended this year to provide protections to a larger number of Nevadans as the pandemic has increased demands for health insurance.
All the plans are ACA compliant, said Korbulic. They cover 10 essential health benefits mandated by the ACA. Most importantly, the plans cover COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment. According to Korbulic, exchange plans are ideal for those who don’t qualify for Medicaid and Medicare and still need financial assistance. “There is no need to purchase any additional plans,” she said.
Consumers will also have options for exploring the dental and vision plans available on NV Health Link this year.
The rates have increased by 4.2%, but that “also means that the subsidies that are available for those needing financial assistance have increased, too,” Korbulic said. “So, most of our consumers will have very minimal, if any, premium cost increases,” she added.
According to Korbulic, clients can “offset the cost of [their] insurance” by availing themselves of subsidies.
Four out of five insured Nevadans got subsidies in the last insurance enrollment cycle, she said. “So, we are pretty confident that most Nevadans currently uninsured are eligible for those subsidies.”
As enrollment is underway, 6,000 new enrollments have taken place on top of 77,000 enrollments during last open enrollment, said Sisolak. “That makes more than 83,000 men and women who will be able to protect themselves this year,” he added.
Will the Court’s ruling impact health insurance in 2021?
The Supreme Court is going to be hearing the challenge to the ACA, California v. Texas, on Nov. 10. According to Korbulic and other officials attending the meeting, a decision on the ACA will not be made until several months into 2021. “And we don’t anticipate any impact on plan year 2021,” said Korbulic.
Nevadans who enroll by 11:55 p.m. on Dec. 31, will see their health insurance kicking off on Jan. 1, 2021. Those enrolling between the Jan. 1-15 will have a coverage start date of Feb. 1. Open enrollment started on Sunday.
Only “74 days left to get going,” said Korbulic.
Consumers can call at 1-800-547-2927 or visit Nevada Health Link to get more information.
Insurance plans can be complex, so consumers are strongly advised to talk to the 700 licensed navigators and brokers working with the Nevada Health Link before making a purchase, advised Korbulic. It’s a free, multilingual service, she added.
Sudhiti (Shu) Naskar is a multimedia journalist and researcher who has years of experience covering international issues. In the role of a journalist, she has covered gender, culture, society, environment, and economy. Her works have appeared on BBC, The National, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Reno Gazette-Journal, Caravan and more. Her interests lie in the intersection of art, politics, social justice, education, tech, and culture. She took a sabbatical from media to attend graduate school at the University of Nevada Reno in 2017. In this period, she has won awards, represented her school at an international conference and successfully defended her thesis on political disinformation at the Reynolds School of Journalism where she earned her Master’s in Media Innovation.