- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 15, 2017

SILVER SPRINGS, Nev. (AP) - Gov. Brian Sandoval announced an agreement with a Missouri-based company Tuesday to make sure health insurance is available to 8,000 rural Nevadans who faced the loss of their coverage after Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield pulled out of the state’s health care exchange.

The deal with Centene Corp. in partnership with the Nevada-based Hometown Health will help ensure coverage is available to all Nevadans, the Republican governor said at a news conference in Silver City, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of Carson City.

Centene will operate in Nevada as SilverSummit through the Silver State Healthcare Insurance Exchange. It will provide statewide coverage, including in 14 rural counties where thousands of residents would have been without any health care options next year, Sandoval said.

Anthem cited concerns about the uncertainty of the Affordable Health Care Act when it announced in June it was pulling out of those counties and would serve only Clark, Washoe and Nye counties, the state’s three most populated. Last week, Anthem announced its plans to end coverage in those counties as well beginning next year.

The three biggest counties also are served by another carrier, but an estimated 8,000 residents in the other 14 of Nevada’s 17 counties would have had no access to Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) and federal subsidies beginning in January 2018, Sandoval said.

“Today’s announcement will ensure that more than 8,000 Nevadans will have the ability to exercise their option to utilize Nevada’s online marketplace and secure coverage for their families,” Sandoval said.

“Access to quality, affordable health care should not be dependent on your zip code or county line,” he said, expressing the state’s “sincere gratitude” to Centene for “stepping up and partnering with Nevada’s own Hometown Health.”

Sandoval said Centene currently offers similar plans in 25 Missouri counties that were slated to have no insurers on its exchange in 2018.

Centene’s updated rates for Nevada have yet to be announced.

Anthem’s withdrawal followed a similar move by Prominence, which had been the only other statewide carrier in Nevada’s exchange.

Health Plan of Nevada will continue to provide insurance options on the exchange for the three most populated counties. SilverSummit is the only carrier at this time that will provide insurance in all 17 counties, including Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Elko, Esmeralda, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Lyon, Mineral, Pershing, Storey and White Pine.

Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, chairman of the Nevada Assembly’s Health and Human Services Committee, was among those who cheered the announcement.

“With so much uncertainty about the future of our national health care, Nevada must do everything we can to support the notion that health care is a right, and not a privilege or a product,” the Sparks Democrat said.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., praised Sandoval’s “hard work” and Centene’s “willingness to put Nevadan families first despite the Trump administration’s threats and continued sabotage of the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces.”

Centene’s actions show that for some insurance companies, it is truly the health and wellbeing of the people it covers that is most important,” she said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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