The scarcity of doctors and medical facilities in vast, thinly populated areas can mean higher costs to insurers. But Nye County, which borders Las Vegas’ Clark County, is one of the state’s largest rural counties — and all four companies will participate there. “It is puzzling to me how carriers are ensuring full county coverage to Nevada’s neighboring states, yet are at a potential loss about how to offer insurance for all but three of Nevada’s counties,” Sandoval wrote the same executives earlier this week. He told them that leaving the exchange vacant in 14 counties will set back years of work to nearly halve Nevada’s uninsured rate.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is confronting a challenge facing the non-group medical insurance market in states where there are too few patients and providers to make for a viable insurance market. Coverage goes hand in hand with provider networks since without enough providers, coverage isn’t useful. Factoring in overhead, it’s no wonder plan issuers aren’t interested in playing, particularly facing the possible loss of cost sharing subsidies for exchange silver plans.
Even though the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act pooled entire state non-group populations into a single statewide risk pool, provider networks are by definition local. In less populous areas, it’s possible only statewide integrated payer and provider plans are going to work. Federally Qualified Health Centers may also have to play a larger role in providing primary care in these areas, with the plans covering costlier services provided in more populated parts of a state.
Telemedicine can also play a role in access to consultations with distant specialists and post hospital discharge patient monitoring. But it requires robust advanced telecommunications infrastructure that is typically lacking in less densely populated areas. Here too, the federal government can play a constructive role in financing its construction in areas passed over by private sector providers.
Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email