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The Nevada Independent

OPINION: We can’t be complacent on health care

Russell Cook
Russell Cook

This year’s open enrollment through was the second highest in the state’s history, with 99,312 Nevadans enrolling in quality health insurance coverage from a pool of eight carriers offering plans throughout the state. 

Those strong enrollment numbers were mirrored across the rest of the country. Nationally, 21.3 million Americans enrolled in health insurance through an Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace. This success has been driven in large part by the increased federal subsidies for ACA plans made available through the Inflation Reduction Act. As President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union, the ACA is “still a very big deal.” It is unquestionably a core component of our health care system, alongside Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  

As we celebrate the 14th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act becoming the law of the land, we must resist the temptation to declare “mission accomplished.” The truth is that while we have come a long way from the dark days of annual and lifetime caps on benefits, coverage being denied for pre-existing conditions and other challenges with pre-ACA health insurance, there is still much work to do to ensure that all Nevadans have access to affordable, high-quality health care. 

Now is the time to double down on our efforts by expanding the circle of health partnerships and building on the strong foundation that the ACA has provided. At Nevada Health Link, we continue to innovate and look for new ways to fulfill our mission of making quality health insurance available to every Nevadan.  

During the past year, we’ve invested heavily in our Tribal Sponsorship Program, which is designed to expand access to ACA coverage for Nevada’s 28 sovereign tribal nations. Through this partnership with our state’s tribal governments, employees of Nevada’s Tribal Health Centers will be trained and certified to offer local, in-person enrollment assistance for members of their communities directly through the marketplace platform. 

We’re also working with our health insurance carriers to provide aggregated billing to simplify premium payments for tribal enrollees whose monthly premiums qualify for sponsorship under the Indian Health Service’s Purchased/Referred Care program. We have more goals to accomplish, but partnerships such as this are crucial for breaking down barriers to health care access and equity.

Collaboration with our health insurance carriers continues to be integral to our success. This year, Nevada Health Link offered 163 health care plans from eight carriers and 18 dental plans from five carriers. This array of options translates to more choices for the nearly 100,000 Nevadans who selected a plan. Competition helps keep prices in check, benefiting consumers. While inflation hammered every sector of our economy last year, the average rate increase for our plans was just 2.8 percent. We will continue to work with carriers to ensure a robust set of options exists for every Nevadan; this is especially important for our rural communities, whom Nevada Health Link remains committed to serving.  

All of these issues are crucial to preserving the 14 years of progress that we’ve made. But our most urgent challenge is supporting Nevadans who have or might lose coverage through the ongoing unwinding of the public health emergency. With the resumption of eligibility redeterminations conducted by Nevada Medicaid, tens of thousands of Nevadans who were able to access care will no longer be eligible based on their income. 

To date, we’ve seen only a small fraction of the eligible population who no longer qualify for Medicaid enroll in coverage through Nevada Health Link. This is a slow-motion emergency that could spike uninsured rates in the state and leave large numbers of Nevadans with a gap in coverage, perhaps without knowing it.  

I implore community and business leaders and elected officials from around the state to help us raise awareness of this challenge by encouraging anyone who has Medicaid coverage to ensure their information is up to date with Nevada Medicaid. If they’ve lost coverage, they can apply for affordable insurance coverage through Based on their income, location and family size they could be eligible for subsidized plans; nearly 9 out of 10 Nevadans qualified for federal support, with many having zero-dollar premiums. 

Addressing immediate challenges such as the unwinding of the public health emergency and our long-term challenges around access and affordability will require vigilance and ongoing partnership. Working together, we can ensure that every Nevadan has the high-quality, affordable care they need to live productive and fulfilling lives. Few things matter more than that. 

Russell Cook is the executive director of Nevada Health Link.

The Nevada Independent welcomes informed, cogent rebuttals to opinion pieces such as this. Send them to [email protected].


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