This holiday shopping season, there is one important purchase that millions of Americans will be making – health insurance. In most states, including Nevada, the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) runs from November 1st to January 15th. Last year, more than 100,000 Nevadans enrolled in Nevada Health Link for health insurance plans – a record number of enrollments for the state.
Enrollment has increased due to Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) subsidies that have made health insurance premiums more affordable, but just as influential is the Nevada State Stock Exchange (SBE), Nevada Health Link. States with an SBE offer distinct benefits to both the state and consumers, including flexibility, affordability, and autonomy, as well as access to critical data that make marketing campaigns more effective. Nevada made the switch in 2019, a transition I was proud to be a part of as then-President of Nevada Health Link.
States running their own SBE have far more flexibility in implementing policy and programmatic goals than those in the federal marketplace. For example, SBE states can create programs that address the unique needs of their residents rather than being rigidly limited to federal government policies. SBE states can also set their own usage fees and rules for special and annual registration periods. This flexibility also allows SBEs to be faster and more nimble in implementing policies that are responsive to federal changes (like the ARPA grants).
SBE states can also operate at a lower cost than Healthcare.gov, which charges states operating fees. These fees are inevitably passed on to consumers in the federal marketplace in the form of higher premiums. States with SBEs can set their own usage fee for insurers, helping to lower those premiums. Additionally, healthcare market technology and software have evolved over the years — and become more cost-effective — allowing states to be more efficient with their spending.
Look no further than Nevada for an example. Migrating to a new website where consumers can shop and compare plans saved the state about $4 million in fiscal 2021 alone.
Additionally, by accessing and utilizing data only provided through state exchange platforms, Nevada was able to send targeted messages to hard-to-reach populations and work with navigators to increase awareness of both filing periods and availability to increase subsidies. This resulted in a 21.5 percent increase in enrollments from 2019 to 2022, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. States operating on the federal platform are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to run targeted marketing campaigns due to the lack of meaningful and time-sensitive data from the FFM, which so often form the backbone of effective campaigns.
This year, Nevada will continue to use registry and market data to reach the 10.6 percent of Nevadans who are uninsured, buoyed by the many benefits that an SBE brings. Ensuring people have and keep health insurance is good for the economy and for the health and well-being of our families, friends and communities.
Much has changed in the healthcare landscape since the pandemic began. But one thing is certain during this open enrollment period — states know their constituents best, and an SBE helps residents access affordable health insurance.
Heather Korbulic is Senior Policy and Strategy Lead at GetInsured, where she engages local, state and federal health policymakers in developing strategies for technology-driven improvements in the delivery of health care and other public services. Previously, she was executive director of Nevada’s health insurance marketplace, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.