Nevada Health Link – Gearing Up For Phase 2

Nevadans will be the focus of a major campaign this November but it won’t present any options on Election Day. The campaign I am referring to is the effort to educate, engage and enroll Nevadans in the Nevada Health Link, our state’s health insurance exchange.

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Enrollment begins this November 15th. Nevada, as did many other states, experienced myriad problems during the first open enrollment period that took place from October 2013 through March 2014, leaving lots of people confused and concerned about phase two. Substantial changes were made to the process since the first enrollment period, and I want to take some time to give some context and history for the exchange and inform people about what to expect for phase two.

I first got involved in health care policy in the late 1990s when I learned that my health insurance policy did not cover treatment for a medical problem I had that was considered a pre-existing condition. I was still at the time one of these so-called “young invincibles” and I chose to go without medical treatment until my health insurance policy covered the costs. However, this was not an option for millions of people, and I felt compelled to become an advocate on this issue.

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed Congress on my 32nd birthday, I thought it was one of the best gifts I could receive. A year later, I began working on behalf of an organization called Know Your Care, whose mission was to inform people about the benefits and protections afforded to them by the ACA. Through this project, we conducted over 500 community events and reached hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.

In the meantime, the state of Nevada established the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange (SSHIX) to determine how to provide uninsured Nevadans an opportunity to purchase qualified health plans from private insurance companies as required by the ACA. State-based exchanges are a key component of the ACA, and provide options for millions of Americans who would otherwise be unable to afford health insurance in the private marketplace.

The SSHIX posted a competitive bidding process to find entities to serve as “Navigator entities,” a term created to help people navigate the process of enrolling in a qualified health plan. My company competed for this opportunity and was one of seven selected in Nevada. I’m providing this background information because I think that it is important for people to understand the role that we play in this process, and our history in educating people about this issue.

Now let’s take some time to recap on where we are after the first enrollment period. First, there were problems. There were lots of problems. The federal hub system malfunctioned, the state portal malfunctioned, people trying to use the system malfunctioned, some media outlets covering the process misinformed the public, some people tasked with helping people were misinforming people, and that’s what people now remember. I won’t bore you with the number of silly things that went wrong and were eventually fixed.

However, despite all these problems, there were several successes after the first open enrollment period. Sabrina Tavernise from the New York Times reports that the number of uninsured Americans has fallen by 8%. Noam Levey from the Los Angeles Times reports that thenumber of uninsured Latinos decreased by about third. Sarah Kliff from Vox reports that insurance premiums will drop in several states, including Nevada. Finally, Robert Pear from the New York Times reports that hospital costs are being reduced thanks to the ACA.

So what should we expect for phase two?  The most important thing that Nevadans should know is that we are using a completely different system to enroll people in the Nevada Health Link.  This new system has a different application process with fewer questions to reduce the time it takes to complete the process and also to make it more user-friendly, which should let us enroll people in much shorter period of time.

This is good news, because the next most important thing that Nevadans should know is that the enrollment period has been cut in half, and will only last three months (November 15, 2014 – February 15, 2015). This means that we will have to enroll double the people in half the time.

The third most important thing Nevadans should know is that despite attempts in Congress and the courts to overturn the ACA, it is still the law of the land, which means hundreds of thousands of Nevadans still need to enroll in a health plan to comply with the law. For those of you that still need more information about the law, please refer to this great resource by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Ramirez Group is partnering with several community organizations and corporations to ensure that we help as many Nevadans as possible navigate this process and enroll in qualified health plans. We know many people still have questions they prefer to ask in person, and that many people are not even aware of all the other medical and health resources available to them in this community.

To help with this, we are hosting a major health fair and health insurance event called “Get Healthy. Get Covered.” on November 15that the Rio Conference Center.  If you or someone you know need in-person assistance, please come by this event and we will get all your questions answered.  If you have questions about the event, please contact us at events@ramirezgroup.com.