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Family left waiting as state tackles backlog in Medicaid applications

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Family left waiting as state tackles backlog in Medicaid applications

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Jan 27, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A Valley family is forced to pay out of pocket for health care as they wait for answers on their Medicaid application and they may not be alone.

The Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services said it's swamped with new Medicaid applications thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

"I've never dealt with anything like this before," said Kevin Kenstler of Las Vegas.

Kevin said he purchased health insurance for himself, his wife and oldest son through Nevada Health Link. His two youngest children, ages 13 and 11, qualified for Nevada Check Up, a Medicaid program. But Kevin said the family is left waiting for answers after submitting the application in early December.

"I mean it's just been an absolute experience," Kevin said.

The family said they called the welfare office last Thursday but the agency had not yet received their information. The welfare office referred the family back to the health link. Frustrated, they turned to Action News.

"It makes you feel like you're in limbo," Kevin said. "You can't do anything. There's nothing you can do."

The family said the youngest boy, Paul, needed to see a doctor last week when he had chest pains. The parents had no choice but to pay some of the costs out of pocket.

The welfare office has staff working overtime on evenings and weekends to help clear a backlog of applications, spokeswoman Miki Allard said in a telephone interview.

Numbers from the state Department of Health and Human Services from early January show roughly 38,000 Medicaid applications were waiting to be processed. The state typically processes about 12,000 a month, according to a news release.

Allard called the situation "challenging" but said things are improving. The state hired an additional 244 workers to beef up staff but the applications keep coming. Allard said the average processing time is about 45 days, but even that is becoming tough to meet.

Kevin said he's sick of waiting on hold to speak with someone at the health link.

"Lower the hold times on the phone and put people on the phones that can actually answer questions or give real answers," Kevin said.

Some relief may be on the way.

Health link spokesman CJ Bawden said an additional 50 staff members for the call center should be in place by the first of February. 

Bawden said some Medicaid applicants are not properly completing the application and don't know it. Even though the Medicaid plan is generally listed at $0, applicants still need to add the plan to the online shopping cart and click check out.

Action News is trying to put Kevin and his family in touch with someone who can help with their problem.

Michael Lopardi

Michael Lopardi

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Michael Lopardi is the featured reporter of the You Ask. We Investigate. franchise at Action News.