Insurance deadline looms; many risk losing subsidy

More than 10,000 people have enrolled in a health plan through the Nevada state insurance exchange during the first three weeks of the latest open enrollment period, but the numbers suggest tens of thousands of people are at risk of missing a key deadline and seeing government subsidies vanish from their premium bills after Jan. 1.

Nevada Health Link announced Wednesday that 10,198 people had signed up for a plan as of Dec. 5. Consumers must sign up — or re-enroll, if they already bought coverage through the site during the previous open enrollment period — by Dec. 15 for subsidized coverage beginning Jan. 1.

“We believe that what we see is good news,” said Bruce Gilbert, executive director of Nevada Health Link, which did not publicize any advance predictions on the enrollment numbers. “The federally supported state-based marketplace seems to work, and the state-specific marketing has clearly resonated.”

Nearly 37,000 people signed up for a plan through Nevada Health Link last time, and all of them must re-enroll to keep uninterrupted subsidies that lower the cost of premiums.

That’s because Nevada scrapped its state-run exchange, which was so riddled with problems that some customers did not receive the coverage they paid for.

It is now using the federal site, which hasn’t yielded any major glitches, Gilbert said. But data wasn’t transferred from one site to the other.

If consumers who previously purchased coverage miss the Dec. 15 deadline, their insurance will continue into the new year, but they will have to pay the full premium price up front. They have until Feb. 15, the end of the open enrollment period, to re-enroll, regain the subsidies as part of their regular bills, and recoup some of the money they spent on the full-price premium.

It’s unclear how many of the 10,198 people who enrolled as of Dec. 5 are new to the program, and how many are re-enrolling.

“The new system is working and we now need our current members to come back, create a new account, and enroll again,” Gilbert said. “I am confident that through our outreach efforts and those of our partners, a majority of our current participants will return to take advantage of subsidized rates by the close of the open enrollment period.”


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