nebraska guide to health insurance

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Nebraska health insurance exchange

Almost 43,000 in NE join exchange, 10k head off-exchange

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A recent WalletHub study projected only a slight drop in Nebraska’s uninsured rate post Obamacare implementation.  14.71 percent of the state’s residents were uninsured last year, and the projection is that 13.69 percent will be uninsured this year.  States that expanded Medicaid experienced the largest drops – in some cases, as much as ten percentage points – but states like Nebraska that have not expanded Medicaid are experiencing only minimal reductions in their uninsured populations.

Enrollment in the Nebraska exchange has continued throughout the summer due to qualifying events that trigger special enrollment periods; HHS will release updated enrollment totals in November when the 2015 open enrollment period begins.  During the first open enrollment period that ended in April, 42,975 people finalized their private plan Obamacare enrollments in the Nebraska exchange (as of April 19).  And another 10,360 people had enrolled in ACA-compliant plans off-exchange.  An additional 9,879 exchange applicants had been found to be eligible for existing Medicaid in Nebraska (Nebraska has not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, a decision that disproportionately impacts the large rural population).

Although Nebraska has not yet expanded Medicaid, a bill was introduced in the 2014 legislative session that would have expanded Medicaid to cover the 33,000 Nebraska residents who have fallen into the coverage gap – they aren’t eligible for current Medicaid, but they have incomes too low to qualify for subsidies in the exchange.  The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services held a public hearing on LB887, the Wellness in Nebraska Act, on January 29, and the issue is still very contentious in the state.  But the bill ultimately died in the legislature, although proponents have vowed to take up the cause in next year’s session and Chuck Hassebrook, the Democratic candidate for Governor, has said that if elected, he’ll make Medicaid expansion a priority.  Hassebrook noted that the survival of rural hospitals depends on Medicaid expansion.

HHS is running the exchange in Nebraska via  Residents who need enrollment assistance can contact Community Action of Nebraska or the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska – both received federal grants to hire navigators, who can answer questions and assist with the enrollment process.   Community Action of Nebraska has a toll free number (1-800-318-2596) that people can use if they want to enroll over the phone.  Residents who want in-person help can also visit one of Community Action’s offices to meet with a navigator.

Nebraska’s Department of Insurance allowed pre-2014 plans to be extended in 2014.  Following the Obama Administration’s announcement in March that pre-2014 plans could be extended for up to two more years, the Nebraska Department of Insurance decided in late April to allow pre-2014 health insurance plans to be extended out as far as October 2016.  It will be up to each carrier to decide whether to accept this option; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska announced in May that they would allow pre 2014 plans to be extended into 2016.

Despite work completed by the Nebraska Department of Insurance (DOI), Gov. Dave Heineman announced in November 2012 that the state would not operate a health insurance exchange. In rejecting a state-run exchange, Heineman said it would be much more expensive for the state to run its own exchange. He also expressed doubt that even a state-run exchange would give Nebraska much authority over exchange operations.  Governor Heineman has also refused to expand Medicaid, but state Senator Jeremy Nordquist is pushing for Medicaid expansion and called on Heineman in December to forfeit his own health insurance until all Nebraskans are able to have coverage.

Before Heineman’s final decision, he had expressed some support for a state-run exchange, and the DOI had studied that option. The DOI gathered input from stakeholders, developed a set of working assumptions around policy and operations, and issued a number of requests for information and requests for proposals to engage subcontractors in developing an exchange.

While the federal government manages most functions for the new marketplace, Nebraska oversees participating health plans. The Nebraska legislature also authorized a workgroup, called the Nebraska Exchange Stakeholder Commission,  to provide input to state and federal officials on how the marketplace should operate.

Four companies are selling policies through the federal marketplace in Nebraska: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Coventry Health Care, CoOportunity (a new health care cooperative), and Health Alliance Midwest.  Carriers needed to submit their proposed 2015 rates to the Nebraska Department of Insurance by June 30, and the rates will be released to the public later in the summer after they have been reviewed and finalized.  

The Nebraska Department of Insurance estimates that 135,000 people will obtain health insurance through the marketplace in 2014.  About 13.3 percent of Nebraska residents are uninsured, a lower percentage than the national average, and lower than most of the midwest states.

Contact the exchange
The federal government will operate the exchange in Nebraska; enrollment begins Oct. 1, 2013

More Nebraska health insurance exchange links

State Exchange Profile: Nebraska
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Nebraska’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.

Nebraska Department of Insurance
Assists consumers who have purchased insurance on the individual market or who have insurance through an employer who only does business in Nebraska.
(877) 564-7323 / Toll Free: (800) 833-7352

Nebraska DOI’s overview of the exchange
An in-depth document published in September 2013 that details how the exchange will work for individuals and small businesses.

Enroll Nebraska
Advocacy group working to raise awareness about the Nebraska exchange.