Nov. 1 is now officially Nevada Health Coverage Day after Gov. Joe Lombardo issued a proclamation Wednesday morning raising awareness about the importance of health insurance.
Wednesday also marked the start of the 76-day open enrollment period for health or dental care plans through Nevada Health Link, the state’s health insurance marketplace created through the Affordable Care Act for Nevadans who are uninsured, do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, and are not getting coverage through their employer.
Enrollees can also receive federal financial assistance or subsidies on their premiums when they buy plans through the exchange, depending on income. Russell Cook, the executive director of Nevada Health Link, said that almost half of system enrollees had plans with a net monthly premium under $100 in 2023.
State officials announced the dedication at a press conference Wednesday, also announcing a collaboration between Nevada Health Link and tribal governments to expand access to quality health care for tribal members.
Angie Wilson, director of the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center, said during the press conference that the plan is to create and implement a “tribal sponsorship program” in which Nevada tribes and tribal health programs cover the cost of premiums on plans through Nevada Health Link for members and help reduce the cost of purchasing insurance.
“Health care and health insurance are complicated topics for most of our Nevadans,” Wilson said, “and are especially complicated for members of our Nevada’s eight federally recognized tribes, who have to navigate the Indian Health Service, state and private programs.”
Nevada Health Link is a state-run agency made up of more than 600 brokerages with 163 total health plans and eight health insurance carriers available this year.
Last enrollment period, more than 96,000 Nevadans enrolled through Nevada Health Link — including 18,000 new enrollees.
In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report showing that the national uninsured rate reached an all-time low (7.7 percent) in early 2023, while 2021 data analyzed by the United Health Foundation indicates that Nevada’s uninsured rate dropped to 11.6 percent.
Reporting from the nonpartisan Guinn Center notes that the majority of uninsured people consist of young adults, Latinos, less-educated people and lower-income individuals. For that reason, Rosa Alejandre, a navigator program manager with Nevada Health Link, said that the agency has focused on bilingual outreach and educational materials to reach the Hispanic community.
Alejandre said she recently had an emergency hospital visit that racked up a $32,000 bill but having insurance gave her peace of mind.
“I don’t know who carries $30,000 around in their bank account just for an emergency visit to the emergency room,” she said.
The open enrollment period runs through Jan. 15, 2024. Cook said that coverage for people enrolled in health care plans between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 will begin on Jan. 1, 2024. People enrolled in the first two weeks of January will start coverage on Feb. 1.
After Jan. 15, open enrollment will close and to get access to coverage offered through the exchange, residents will have to demonstrate a qualifying life event, such as a marriage, birth or loss of health insurance.