Nevada's exchange plunges ahead, doing what it can

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - A major carrier--Anthem--has just pulled out of the Nevada market, leaving just two companies offering heath insurance in three of the Nevada's counties.

There's no one offering plans in the other 14 counties. Rates will be rising and in the midst of this uncertainty, the board of the state's health insurance exchange meets in Carson City and Las Vegas.

Anyone hoping for solutions coming out of this meeting was bound to be disappointed. The board of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange was told its staff is working to ensure the 89-thousand Nevadans who bought insurance through the exchange have options in 2018, but at the moment decisions that will determine what those options will be is in the hands of the Trump administration, specifically on the cost-shared reductions--the subsidies for many and the individual mandate.

"I know that the individual mandate is a political hot potato and not very popular," admits the exchange's Executive Director Heath Korbulic, "but it is a driver and an incentive for a healthier, younger risk pool and that's critical for keeping prices down for all consumers."

The exchange can say plans will be available in Washoe, Clark and Nye Counties. The other 14 counties--at the moment--are on the outside looking in.

"We're very hopeful that we will have a solution that will be on exchange for those 14 currently bare counties. And we're working on a resource page on our website, nevadahealthlink.com, to advise consumers about what options are available if the worst case scenario plan played out and there are no plans available to them."

All the exchange can do at the moment is to keep looking for another carrier and move ahead with its marketing plan encouraging Nevadans to sign up, if they can.

That marketing plan--the outreach to customers--is all the more important this year, since the administration has given them the added challenge of cutting the open enrollment period in half--just 45 days, from November 1 to December 15.

That marketing plan will urge people to shop the market early, consulting with a professional. Along with everyone else, they should also keep an eye on Washington.

One positive note: the meeting began with a representative of the AARP, testifying in Las Vegas, noting that in its existence, the exchange had cut the number of uninsured in Nevada in half, from 23 to 11 to 12 percent. Future progress is uncertain.