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Some choosing penalty fees over health insurance as open enrollment deadline nears

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In the biggest gambling state in the nation, health insurance is also a game of risk.

"I mean, insurance is a gamble." Matt Law is an insurance broker at Health Benefits Associates. "It's based on risk. We don't know what's going to happen."

People who do not yet have insurance for 2016 have just four more days to sign up during the open enrollment period; and the penalty has increased this year for people who go without insurance.

Those who opt out of coverage will have to pay $695 or 2.5% of their taxable income; but some people feel paying that fee is cheaper than paying for insurance in 2016.

News 4 viewer Matthew Macillus broke down the math (view the comment in the post below). He said his basic health plan would cost $121 per month, totaling more than $1,400 for the year.

Insurance broker Matt Law said being uninsured is not a risk worth taking, though. "The penalty is minuscule compared to what you'd pay in an out-of-pocket claim without insurance."

Experts said the fee for opting out of insurance is only going to rise in the coming years. According to Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Communications Officer Janel Davis, "penalties for being uninsured have increased year over year, so they're going to keep increasing."

Both Davis and Law said the best bet is to sit down with an insurance broker to find the plan that fits your budget. Law said, "It's always a good idea to have someone who is licensed, knows the trends, understands the markets, and can give you advice."

Here's something many people may not know: getting guidance from a broker is completely free. Experts said purchasing health coverage is not only the law, it's worth the gamble.

"We never know what could happen," Davis said, "one individual or one family is one trip away from claiming bankruptcy if they go to the ER."

She said there is good news to report about the number of Nevadans insured this year. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports nearly 80,000 Nevadans have already enrolled for 2016. Davis said that number is up from almost 63,000 people last year.

When it comes to the amount of uninsured people in the Silver State, Davis said there's still some room for improvement. Last year, about 20% of people did not sign up for coverage. In 2016, that number has already dropped to 14%.

Health Benefits Associates is keeping its doors open all weekend to help people who still need to enroll. Broker Matt Law said the sooner people enroll, the better off they'll be. He said Healthcare.gov tends to get bogged down as the open enrollment deadline nears.

Nevada Health Link is also helping people sign up for insurance this weekend. Representatives will be at a health fair at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center this Saturday. Health professionals will be there from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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