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Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada on Tuesday announced that Centene, a low-cost health insurer, would enter the private health-insurance markets in 14 rural Nevada counties that previously had no insurer for 2018.
“Today we are going to announce that there will be no counties without health insurance options in the great state of Nevada,” Sandoval said at a rural hospital in Silver Springs.
The news was first reported by The Nevada Independent.
The void in Nevada was created after the health insurer Anthem pulled out of the 14 counties on August 7, citing uncertainty surrounding the future of the markets established by the Affordable Care Act, the law better known as Obamacare.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Sandoval said he called Centene CEO Michael Neidorff after Anthem’s exit to ask whether Centene would expand its Obamacare footprint.
Health-policy experts describe empty counties as the worst-case scenario for Obamacare’s individual insurance markets. Based on data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-policy think tank, 8,048 Nevadans in the 14 counties were in danger of having no insurer in 2018 based on plan selections for this year.
Tuesday’s decision leaves one county in Wisconsin and one county in Ohio as the only remaining empty counties for next year. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that 381 people currently enrolled in plans in those counties are at risk of being left without an insurer in 2018.
Centene is a relative success story in the Obamacare markets, using its slimmed-down Medicaid-like plans to achieve profits in the exchange business. Centene has expanded its Obamacare footprint in multiple states, including previously bare counties in Kansas.
Tuesday’s announcement from Centene comes as uncertainty surrounding the 2018 plan year is reaching a fever pitch.
President Donald Trump has contributed to the uncertainty by not committing to follow through on two key parts of Obamacare: subsidizing insurers for providing affordable health insurance to poor people and enforcing penalties on some Americans who do not purchase health insurance. Insurers have made it clear there will be negative consequences for consumers on the exchanges if Trump backs away from either of those obligations.