Photo via The Department of Homeland Security
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks during a meeting of the Council of Governors as part of the 2017 National Governors Association meeting on Feb. 24 in Washington, D.C. At the time, Sandoval joined a chorus of other Republican governors imploring Congress not to touch Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion .

Student groups FUSED and Generation Action hosted a healthcare town hall meeting Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the Joe Crowley Student Union. Club presidents Rocio Meza and Alese McMurtry said the goal of the town hall was to bring concerned citizens together with healthcare professionals and explore the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and health insurance for Nevadans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday, Sept. 26 that no vote would be held on the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Bill, a last-ditch effort by Republican senators to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Among other things, the proposal would have terminated ACA subsidies as of 2020 for low-income Americans’ private insurance premiums and extra funding provided to states that extend Medicaid. The bill also would have weakened ACA language regarding protections for applicants with pre-existing conditions.

“The Graham-Cassidy-Heller Bill would have cost our state between $600 million and $2 billion more (than the Affordable Care Act) due to its extensive Medicaid cuts,” said Heather Korbulic, executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.

Nevada Health Link, otherwise known as the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, connects people in the community without Medicaid or employer-based health insurance to qualified insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. The exchange has built an intuitive online marketplace where Nevadans can shop for, compare and purchase qualified coverage plans. It has been credited with lowering Nevada’s uninsured rate in 2013 from 23 percent to about 10 percent in 2016.

“What I really want everybody in this room and beyond to know is that we’ve gone from a 90 day open enrollment period to 45 days,” Korbulic said. “That’s a huge shift and our state-based marketplace,, may be flooded with a halved open enrollment period.”

The Market Stabilization Rule established on April 13, 2017, by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services amended the timing of the annual open enrollment period for 2018. The open enrollment period begins Nov. 1, 2017, and ends at midnight Dec. 15, 2017, a total of 45 days reduced from 90 days in years past. The only exception stipulated on is qualifying for a Special Enrollment Period: getting married, having a baby, or incidental loss of health coverage.

Jan Brizee, Elko-based ombudsman for the Nevada Office of Consumer Health Assistance spoke on her office’s willingness to help all Nevadans regardless of income or age.

“One gentleman, a UNR student, had just switched to an employer-based plan and shortly after ended up in the emergency room,” said Brizee. “Even though he had the same card number and policy number, that company would not carry that over and he received a five-hundred-dollar bill. I was able to file an appeal with him and we got that bill completely covered.”

The OCHA also offers consumer help with healthcare applications and will assist Nevada Health Link in spreading the word about open enrollment.

“The large thing now is this open enrollment period,” said Brizee. “We’ve got to get people in and signed up within those 45 days, but what I have seen since the change in administration is that is not being maintained like it had been before.”

Isabel Youngs of Nevadans Together for Medicaid, a coalition of healthcare advocates in support of Medicaid expansion, cited Nevada’s vast decline in uninsured children under ACA.

“Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid, Nevada has had the largest percentage point decline in uninsured children in the entire country,” said Youngs. “We’ve cut our rate of uninsured children from almost 15 percent in 2013 to 6.8 percent in 2016.”

She added that Nevadans Together for Medicaid will shift its focus to the open enrollment period.

“There are clear attempts to sabotage open enrollment to healthcare packages, including deep cuts to navigator funding, shortening of the enrollment period and threats from the administration about cutting our cost-sharing reductions,” said Youngs.

Gabriel Selbig can be reached at and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.