Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2021

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Guest column:

Affordable Care Act is more important than ever for Nevadans

March 23 marked the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. A decade after its enactment, the ACA has fulfilled many of the promises of its proponents, offering security to Nevadans who would otherwise be without the safety net of a comprehensive health plan.

And in the midst of a public health crisis, the ACA is more important than ever.

Click to enlarge photo

Catherine Cortez Masto

The ACA provides a laundry list of protections. It offers coverage to the 1.2 million Nevadans with pre-existing conditions; no longer can insurers deny coverage to patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes, asthma or multiple sclerosis. It allows young Nevadans to continue to be covered by their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. And it ensures that ACA plans include essential health benefits like preventive care, maternal health checks for pregnant women, emergency services, prescription drug benefits, and mental health and substance abuse treatment.

In the Silver State, these benefits have been bolstered by our state Legislature and governor. In particular, Nevada has its own health exchange where customers can go to shop for ACA plans, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange (SSHIX). SSHIX operates Nevada Health Link, the online marketplace for these plans, and agents are available seven days a week to answer questions and help customers enroll in plans.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, making sure that Nevadans have access to affordable insurance is even more urgent. That’s why I’m so glad that Nevada Health Link is offering a special enrollment period until May 15, so that if you haven’t already enrolled in a SSHIX plan for 2020 you can do so now. What’s more, you can change your coverage if you have a qualifying life event, like getting laid off, having a child or moving. That means if you lose your job-based health insurance after the special enrollment period closes on Thursday, you can still apply for subsidized health insurance on Nevada Health Link. For families experiencing significant financial hardship through no fault of their own, the ACA is a lifeline to stay as healthy as possible.

I’m working with my colleagues to push for expanded health care subsidies during the coronavirus pandemic. I know there are many with strong views on health care in our country, and that’s a debate we can continue to have. But even if you think the ACA isn’t the right answer, it makes no sense to terminate it in the middle of a national health crisis with no realistic plan to replace it.

As for me, I strongly believe the way to address the shortcomings of the ACA is to improve and expand it. We must take action to make care and coverage more affordable and make more families eligible for tax credits that they can use to purchase health insurance.

I want to bolster the support we offer seniors, pregnant women and new mothers, infants, rural communities and other vulnerable groups. I want to ensure we’re defending those critical preexisting conditions protections, keeping young adults on their parents’ health care until age 26, and maintaining those essential health benefits. I’ll continue to fight in the Senate to achieve these goals. And I’m proud that in Nevada we’re doing everything we can to protect our citizens’ health, both before this public health crisis and in the midst of it. The ACA is a key part of that effort.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving two terms as Nevada attorney general.