Maintaining Momentum on Access to Health Insurance – The Nevada Independent

For the first time in 40 years, inflation is making headlines across the country. Generations of Nevadans have never seen such high prices at the grocery store, at the gas station, and in their monthly bills. The reality is that many families have to make tough choices with their family budget.

Without urgent action from Congress, thousands of Nevadans will be hit by another major price hike, this time on their health insurance bill. The expanded financial subsidies for families and individuals who receive their insurance through the state’s health insurance marketplace, known as Nevada Health Link, are scheduled to expire at the end of the year. This increase in financial assistance was channeled through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which helped drive enrollment to a record high last year. During the last open enrollment period, more than 101,000 Nevada residents were insured through Nevada Health Link, an increase of nearly 24% in enrollment over the previous year.

Allowing these subsidies to expire would have a devastating effect on Nevada residents and lead many to seriously consider dropping their health insurance altogether as they cut costs.

It’s not a risk we can take.

Being covered by quality health insurance is the gateway to overall health and well-being. Studies show that having health insurance is associated with better access to health services and better health monitoring, while uninsured adults are less likely to receive preventive services for chronic conditions such as as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Being insured adds an extra layer of protection to individuals and families in the event of a medical emergency and can prevent financial ruin.

Since passing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, Nevada has made tremendous strides in expanding access to affordable health insurance. Before the ACA, Nevada had an uninsured rate of 22%, nearly 7% higher than the national average; while in 2021, Nevada’s uninsured rate was 11.4%. (Source: US Health Rankings).

We should be incredibly proud of the progress we have made in this regard; now is the time to build on this momentum, not backtrack. There are still too many uninsured Nevadans in the Silver State. In particular, marginalized groups in Nevada are more likely to be uninsured. As we continue to build health equity across the state, we need to help Hispanics, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and LGBTQ+ people in Nevada access and afford quality insurance that meets their needs.

I am encouraged that elected leaders recognize the need to expand ARPA grants and build on the progress made to insure more Nevadans. Recently, Governor Steve Sisolak and 13 other governors called on Congress in a letter asking for the extension of ARPA benefits. The Nevada Stock Exchange also signed a letter with 18 other state stock exchanges urging Congress to expand these essential benefits. A few weeks later, Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced new legislation called the Cut Inflation Act of 2022, which would extend tax credits for upgraded ACA plans. available through ARPA until 2025.

That would mean more Nevada families could afford to keep their health insurance. And when more Nevada families are insured, we have a healthier, more prosperous Nevada.

Expanding ARPA benefits will have a significant impact on health care for thousands of Nevadans — and millions of Americans.

I am cautiously optimistic about the chances of this bill becoming law. I hope Congress moves quickly to expand these grants, allowing Nevadans to continue to enjoy improved monthly premiums and protect themselves and their families with affordable health insurance.

Ryan High is the executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. He oversees operations of the online marketplace, which connects Nevadans to affordable, quality health insurance. He is passionate about health care policy and works for a fully insured population in Nevada.

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