CARSON CITY (AP) — Thousands of residents will be left uninsured in 14 of Nevada’s 17 counties after two insurance companies exit the government-run but privately administered health insurance exchange next year, in what state officials called a health crisis Wednesday.
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield said in a Wednesday statement it will no longer offer plans through the exchange in rural Nevada, citing market volatility and the uncertainty of federal operations as Republicans in Congress continue to debate an overhaul of the system. Prominence Health Plan says it will pull out of the state entirely.
Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Executive Director Heather Korbulic said 8,050 Nevadans will lose coverage Jan. 1 when those carriers leave.
Korbulic said the state is facing a health crisis, adding “I’m disappointed and I’m extremely concerned about my fellow Nevadans and what they’re going to do to access health care.”
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval called the insurers’ decisions devastating and unfortunate.
“I have communicated the news of this crisis to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and the state will pursue all available options to help the individuals and families who will be hurt by this decision,” Sandoval said in a statement.
State Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson called the moves concerning and said her division has been working with Sandoval, the insurers and Korbulic’s board throughout the GOP discussions to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s landmark health law.
The exchange will remain open in Clark, Washoe and Nye counties, where about 81,000 Nevadans are currently insured through it.
With a scarcity of private insurance providers and only a dozen public health nurses across the region, options for affordable health care are expected to all but evaporate in Nevada’s other 13 counties and the municipality of Carson City.
The exchange offers discounts for low-to-moderate-income individuals and families to afford health insurance.
Without it, many will face a decision between paying higher premiums and having access to fewer nearby doctors who accept their insurance, or going without insurance and paying a penalty established under “Obamacare.”
The people losing coverage do not qualify for Medicaid. Sandoval vetoed a bill earlier this month that would have attempted to open the government-subsidized program to all state residents.
Korbulic said state officials have been aware of the insurers’ plans for about two weeks and are still in discussions with them.
But officials are largely focused on finding alternatives, including federal incentives to lure back the insurers and expanding a nonprofit, subscription-based medical provider.