- Associated Press - Friday, December 14, 2018

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak on Friday urged people to sign up for Affordable Care Act health insurance before a Saturday midnight deadline as enrollment in the program has straggled across the country.

Sisolak urged people, especially those who are young and healthy, to sign up even though Republicans last year ended a requirement for most people to have insurance or face a tax penalty.

“No one can afford be without health care coverage,” Sisolak, a Democrat, said. “You never know what life has in store for you.”

As of Dec. 1, the most recent numbers available, about 31,000 people signed up for 2019 health plans through HealthCare.gov through Dec. 1. That’s down about 12 percent from the same period in 2017.

The GOP’s repeal of the individual mandate requiring people to have insurance is one of the reasons fewer people are signing up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act online marketplace, according to experts.

Sisolak told reporters that a new health care commission he’s forming will explore whether Nevada should take its own steps to strengthen the Obama-era law within the state, including potentially requiring all state residents to have health insurance.

“We haven’t done a deep dive into that to see if we should have an individual mandate but it’s something we’re going to have to consider,” Sisolak said. “That’s one of the things we’ll definitely be looking at.”

A handful of other states have passed similar requirements already. But the penalties for not carrying insurance are enforced through annual state income tax filings. Nevada has no income tax, so it would need to study how the state could instead enforce such a rule, said Heather Korbulic, the executive director of the state’s marketplace, known as the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.

Experts point to the Trump administration’s expansion this year of short-term insurance plans that offer skimpier coverage than Affordable Care Act plans as another reason for lower enrollment this year.

Nevada already has some limits on the plans, but Sisolak said that he wants his commission to study whether Nevada should ban them, as other states have done.

People who do not get insurance through their employers or government programs like Medicaid have until midnight Saturday to shop for and enroll in health insurance on HealthCare.gov.

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