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Health exchange acknowledges problems, Medicaid applications soar

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Health exchange acknowledges problems, Medicaid applications soar

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Jan 9, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The director of Nevada's health insurance exchange said progress has been made but there's still work to do on the new enrollment system.

Problems include error messages on the Nevada Health Link site, long hold times for people trying to call customer service and insurance carriers missing information.

Executive director Jon Hager acknowledged the problems and explained his plans to address them during a board meeting of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange in Carson City on Thursday.

During the meeting, customers and brokers expressed anger over waiting on hold trying to reach the exchange with problems.

"There are long wait times and people do receive busy signals and we are aware of that," Hager said. "Again, to that point, we have added quite a few staff to make sure that people can get through."

Hager said the health link plans to add 50 people to its call center in the coming weeks bringing the new total to 150. The state also increased its call capacity.

The exchange is fixing glitches with the web system as they are discovered. Hager said a limited number of applications had trouble getting to the insurance carriers. In some cases, carriers told people who had already paid that they had no information on their enrollment. Some of those applications had to be sent to the carriers manually, Hager said.

That includes Robert Parker of Las Vegas. His wife Jill needs her coverage for a cancer screening. Robert has an email receipt showing he paid for a plan on Dec. 10; when he called, the carrier didn't have the family's information. Action News was able to put Robert in touch with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield; within a day, his wife was enrolled.

"It'll be nice to get the help she needs," Parker said.

The new exchange website and the Affordable Care Act are having other effects on state agencies.

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that it's swamped with Medicaid applications.

The Division of Welfare and Supportive Services received triple the average number of monthly applications in December. The state's overall caseload grew by more than 10,000 over the last three months, roughly double what the state had planned.

Health department director Mike Willden said the new law led many people to seek health coverage for the first time and then realize they qualified for Medicaid. He said the state has already hired 244 employees to handle the extra volume and process the cases.

"It will typically take about 30 days to process that case," Willden told Action News in a telephone interview. "We're trying everything we can to speed that up."

During a tour of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Thursday, Action News asked Gov. Brian Sandoval if the state was prepared.

"We've absolutely planned for this," Sandoval said. "It's part of our budget. We've added state employees. We're going to be able to do this. But again, there's a huge volume."

Willden said a big problem surrounds incomplete Medicaid applications. Some people who enroll through the health link don't select a Medicaid plan, usually listed at $0, so the application is not finished.

The state plans to add another 160 staffers to welfare offices by the end of the year.

Michael Lopardi

Michael Lopardi

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