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Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital staff gather in the emergency room area in Elko on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The health insurance company Anthem is making preparations to once again offer plans on the state exchange, a reversal of its decision to exit it two years ago over volatility in the individual health insurance marketplace.

The news of Anthem’s plans in Nevada was buried in a Tuesday afternoon release of proposed rate change averages for individual health insurance plans from the Division of Insurance. The two existing health insurance companies offering plans on the exchange, Health Plan of Nevada and Silver Summit, and Anthem, as “HMO Colorado,” have submitted proposed rates to the division.

According to the rate proposal, Health Plan of Nevada will continue to offer plans in just Clark, Washoe and Nye counties, while SilverSummit and Anthem will offer plans statewide.

Heather Korbulic, executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, said the exchange has been working with Anthem since January, but that the details were confidential until the Tuesday release. She added that nothing is final until the rates are approved and Anthem signs a contract in September but that she is “very hopeful.”

“We’re enthusiastic about having the opportunity to offer more choice to Nevadans,” Korbulic said.

Anthem’s return would mean that rural Nevadans once again would have a choice of health insurance plans available to them on the state exchange. Fourteen rural counties faced a brief threat in 2017 of having no health insurance plans available to them on the exchange after Anthem announced it was scaling back its coverage in rural Nevada and then pulled out of the exchange entirely. SilverSummit, which agreed to step in and cover the rural counties, has been the only option for rural Nevadans on the exchange over the last two years.

Anthem did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Division of Insurance release also signaled continued, relative stability within the state’s individual health insurance market: The proposed average increase in premiums for plans sold on the exchange in the next plan year is 0.5 percent, with a proposed average rate decrease of 1.8 percent from Health Plan of Nevada and an increase of 3.3 percent from SilverSummit.

“The low rate increases are indicative of the stabilizing market and, compounding with competition, we’ll see some good pricing,” Korbulic said.

The proposed average rate change for off-exchange plans is 1.9 percent, with average rate increases of 2 percent for Health Plan of Nevada, 2.2 percent for Sierra Health and Life, 1 percent for Hometown Health Plan and 1 percent for Hometown Health Providers.

Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson, in a statement, noted that this is the second year in a row that the division has received “modest” rate increases. However, she cautioned that though the rate increases may be lower, changes to federal subsidies could have an impact on the amount that individuals pay for plans on the exchange.

Korbulic said that the exchange won’t know what kind of an impact those changes will have until the rates are finalized later this year.

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