Ron Bliss: Obamacare still alive, but Senate needs to act to make it viable for 2018 enrollment

The last of the attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare has failed and now the Senate still has time to shore up health insurance for 2018.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is leading an effort to assure insurance companies that the government will provide cost-sharing reductions that will help make co-pays for poor and middle-class policy holders more affordable. As it is, failure to act before now has driven up the prices of health plans and driven some of the providers out of the marketplace.

When costs of plans on the exchange were released on Sunday, they reflected the uncertainty that is causing premium prices to rise. Silver Summit — the new provider on the exchange that will make its policies available in all 17 counties — showed increases of $50 or more on its silver plans from what it proposed. The adjustments were made because of the uncertainty over cost-sharing reductions that lower the overall cost, copays and deductibles.

On its two silver plans being offered, it shows deductibles of $5,500 and $7,050. It is unclear if the plans can be changed if the senate takes actions and assures insurance companies of co-sharing help before the start of open enrollment on Nov. 1.

Only Silver Summit will be offered in counties other than Washoe, Clark and Nye where Health Plan of Nevada is the only other provider on the exchange. Costs for the two carriers’ plans are similar, but up greatly from what they were last year. Subsidies should also be higher to make plans more affordable for those who need subsidies, but the higher deductibles will likely pose a problem for many.

Unless help is given by the senate, many may be forced to search for alternative plans that provide indemnity coverage and a separate wellness MEC plan that has become available to avoid paying a tax penalty.

Off the exchange, Hometown Health has the best rates, while Anthem has limited its offering only to a catastrophic plan in Washoe, Clark and Nye.

Those interested in looking at the rates and plans offered should go to the Nevada Division of Insurance website and check health-plan rates for your respective county and age group.

Ron Bliss is an independent insurance agent in Carson City who is certified on and off the exchange in both Nevada and California. He has sold ACA plans every year since the program started in 2014. He offers a wide range of health insurance products, including dental and vision and Medicare supplements and Medicare Advantage. He can be reached at 775-224-7169.


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