By Lukas Eggen Ely Times Staff Writer

The Nevada Division of Insurance Commissioner Scott Kipper spoke to the Ely Rotary Club last week as part of a statewide tour to help individuals and businesses prepare for the new healthcare regulations.

Effective Jan. 1, all Americans will be required to have health insurance. The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, which can be visited at www.exchange.nv.gov, where individuals will be able to purchase plans. As the Jan. 1 deadline approaches, there are steps individuals can do to make sure they are prepared to purchase the right health insurance plan.

“The steps that people need to take are to find out what best fits their situation,” Kipper said. “They should break that down if they’re buying individual policies or a policy through an employer. Once they determine that, particularly if they’re in the individual market, I would suggest start talking to either a navigator or an agent or a broker to find out what’s best for them.”

Navigators are individuals found through the SSHIE and overseen by the NDOI who are trained in assisting people with insurance questions. Open enrollment for the SSHIE begins Oct. 1 and ends March 15. After this year, enrollment will begin Oct. 1 and end in early December.

While it’s possible to do research and make a decision on insurance without the help of an agent, broker or navigator, Kipper said the NDOI recommends not going it alone because of the importance of health insurance.

“Insurance is a complex purchase to begin with,” Kipper said. “It’s not simply buying a plane ticket online, it’s got a lot of complexities and questions people should be asking. For instance, is my primary care physician in this policy’s network? Are my prescription drugs covered in that formula? Those are two of the major ones. If you don’t have the background and don’t know which questions to ask, you may end up with a product you don’t need and might be better served with something else.”

A navigator, agent or broker can also help make sure an insurance plan meets the specific needs and find the right plan. Purchasing a health insurance plan through the SSHIE also can ensure a plan meets the necessary federal requirements.

“The products are built out now where they all include essential health benefits package as designated by the state of Nevada in conjunction with the federal government,” Kipper said.

Kipper said he expects some rough patches this first year, but that the federal government is responding to issues as they come up, but that things will be smoothed over in a year or two.

Kipper said so far, the places they have visited know they have to do something, but confusion centers around what exactly they have to do and if buying insurance is mandatory or optional. With the Jan. 1 deadline up quickly, Kipper said one positive is the decision for the state to run its own health insurance exchange, something that less than half the states have done.

“Gov. Sandoval made a decision in the 2011 legislature that this program should be built by Nevada for Nevada, rather than relying on the federal government,” Kipper said. “I think that will bear out to be a solid choice.”

President Obama’s healthcare reforms remain a hot topic. But with the requirement for all Americans to be insured happening in less than half a year, Kipper said people must start taking the necessary steps. Questions about the health insurance exchange or any of the requirements can be answered by visiting www.doi.nv.gov or by calling 775-687-0700.

As the deadline to purchase health insurance draws near, the NDOI stresses the importance of making an informed purchase to prevent complications later on because of a plan that doesn’t fit your needs.

“The key takeaway here is it’s so important for consumers to be able to make an educated decision,” Kipper said. “It’s a very important decision, not an inexpensive proposition for consumers and the more knowledge they can gather, the better their decision will be.”

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