Managers of the Affordable Care Act public health insurance program in Nevada are facingthe same kind of confusion about the 2018 market that's plaguingordinary insurance agents and brokers.

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Heather Korbulic, the executive director of Nevada's SilverState Health Insurance program, talks about the confusion in amonthly update she prepared for an upcoming program boardmeeting.

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Korbulic says she and colleagues at other state-based ACAexchange programs have been asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Servicesquestions about how the 2018 individual major medical openenrollment period might work.

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"I have yet to receive any answers to my questions, orindication as to when we will receive answers," Korbulic writes inthe update.

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HealthCare.gov basics

Nevada started out trying to offer a state-based, state-operatedACA public exchange program.

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The state had trouble getting its exchange enrollment andaccount administration services to work smoothly, and it's nowleasing use of systems operated by HealthCare.gov to power itsexchange, which does business as the Nevada Health Linkexchange.

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The drafters of the ACA created the exchange system to giveconsumers a standardized, web-based way to shop for healthcoverage, and to administer the ACA premium tax credit andcost-sharing reduction subsidy programs.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services establishedHealthCare.gov to provide ACA exchange services in states that areunwilling or unable to handle the jobs themselves.

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'Open enrollment period' system

The ACA prohibits insurers from considering individual healthconditions when deciding whether to sell people coverage, or fromconsidering individual health factors other than age, location andtobacco use when setting prices for coverage.

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Insurers, insurance regulators and exchange program managersdeveloped an "open enrollment period" system, or limits on whenconsumers have an easy time buying coverage without having whatinsurers classify as a good reason to be shopping for coverage, topush younger, healthier people to pay for coverage even when theyfeel good.

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The idea is that people will buy coverage during the openenrollment period, to avoid getting stuck without any practical wayto buy health coverage, or pay for health care, at other times ofthe year.

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Insurers fear that, without the open enrollment period system,consumers would see the ACA restrictions on medical underwriting asan invitation to wait until they get sick to pay for coverage.

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2018 open enrollment period

The ACA public exchange system came to life in 2014. For thepast few years, the open enrollment period has run from Nov. 1through Jan. 31 in most of the country.

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This year, HealthCare.gov managers plan to shorten the openenrollment period for 2018. The open enrollment period is now setto run from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

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Korbulic writes in the update that she and her colleagues wantto know what kind of infrastructure HealthCare.gov managers have tosupport the shortened open enrollment period.

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State exchange program managers also want to know howHealthCare.gov will reach out to consumers.

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The lack of answers "is particularly frustrating, consideringthe [Nevada] exchange is set to spend over $5 million to leaseHealthCare.gov for 2017," Korbulic writes.

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Nevada will offer its own state-funded marketing programregardless of what HealthCare.gov, Korbulic says.

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The Nevada exchange program recently lost plans from Aetna Inc.and Anthem Inc., but it's still on track to offer plans fromCentene Corp. and Health Plan of Nevada, Korbulic says.

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Allison Bell

Allison Bell, ThinkAdvisor's insurance editor, previously was LifeHealthPro's health insurance editor. She has a bachelor's degree in economics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Think_Allison.