Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 | 2 a.m.
With Facebook ads, health fairs and even sign spinners, Nevada officials are hoping to encourage more residents to sign up for subsidized health insurance by Friday, the last day of this year's enrollment season.
Officials with the state's Silver State Health Insurance Exchange have been running an awareness campaign for months. But they are boosting their efforts ahead of a deadline that consumers are used to face in January or later. The latest available figures show that more than 35,400 Nevada residents have signed up for coverage.
"Right now, this last week, if you are a Nevadan, and you are looking at almost anything on the internet, you'll probably see an ad," Silver State Health Insurance Exchange executive director Heather Korbulic said. The state is also running ads in movie theaters, radio, football games and print publications.
The Healthcare.gov marketplace run by the U.S. government — and used by Nevada consumers — under the Affordable Care Act allows those who do not get insurance through employers or government programs to shop and sign up for private coverage online. Open enrollment started Nov. 1 and ends Friday in most states, a sign-up period six weeks shorter than last year's.
Some 9 million to 10 million people currently have private plans through the ACA's government-sponsored markets. More than 8 in 10 receive subsidized premiums and are cushioned from rate increases. Federal help paying premiums is still available despite GOP efforts to repeal the health law.
Nevada residents this year must select plans from either Health Plan of Nevada or SilverSummit Health Plan after other insurers chose to stop offering plans on the exchange.
Korbulic anticipates the state will not match the more than 89,000 sign-ups for 2017 due to the shortened enrollment season. The federal government denied a request for an extension. People who remain uninsured after Friday risk fines.
"I think it's going to be a real challenge to enroll the same number of people as years past," she said. "... It bothers me to think that we will potentially see a decrease in our enrollment this year as a result of not being able to have the flexibility that we need."
The agency will cut ties with the federal website for 2019 and run its own platform, which would allow it to set a longer enrollment season.
On the last day to pick a plan, health fairs at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno and St. Rose Dominican Hospital-San Martin Campus in Las Vegas will include licensed professionals that can help people sign up for coverage.
For those shopping on their own, the state's Division of Insurance has a website to dispel rumors. The division is urging consumers to do some research before purchasing a plan and wants them to be aware that while there are policies that can be legally sold in the state, they don't meet the requirements set by the ACA.
"There are many websites out there trying to lure consumers into purchasing a short-term plan while disguising them as ACA compliant policies," Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson said in a statement. "While it is up to the consumer to decide if they would like to purchase such policies, they just need to understand what they are purchasing."