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Sen. Heller gets "an earful" about problems with state health exchange

Michael Lopardi

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Sen. Heller gets "an earful" about problems with state health exchange

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Jan 21, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Members of Nevada's Congressional delegation are weighing in on problems with the state's health insurance exchange as frustration grows among users.

"Boy, I got an earful," said Sen. Dean Heller following a round table discussion on health care reform in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

About 30 small business owners, health care professionals and members of the insurance industry were present, the Senator's spokeswoman said. Heller, a Republican, said speakers complained about accessibility problems with Nevada Health Link, the exchange website, and costs of the plans available.

"I got an earful in this particular meeting," Heller said. "There's a lot of room for improvement and there wasn't a lot of love, let me put it that way."

For months, frustrated people have turned to Action News as they run into problems trying to enroll online. Problems include error messages on the website and long hold times as callers try to reach a representative. Some brokers are having the same problems. Some users are discovering the plans are more expensive than their current policy.

"We're seeing people who do not have accessibility to these exchanges, so there's room for improvement, a lot of room for improvement," Heller said.

This month, the health link told Action News it's addressing website glitches as they're discovered and adding staff and capacity to the call center.

"Compared to the national website and many states that don't have an exchange, Nevada actually is ahead of the curve," said Rep. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas.

Horsford said he spoke with Gov. Brian Sandoval on Monday about the problems. Despite the hiccups, Horsford said Nevdans are benefiting from the new law.

"All in all, this is good. It's not perfect," Horsford said. "As a member of the oversight committee in Congress, I'm working to try to find ways to make the law work better but we have to work together to make that happen."

Heller said roughly 25,000 people in Nevada had their plans either cancelled or not renewed because of the Affordable Care Act. More than 11,000 people have selected and purchased plans through the state exchange, according to the most recent numbers on the health link's Twitter page.

Heller said he did not support the law but since it's now in effect, he wants to improve the system for users.

"We still have work to do to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, but millions of Americans are already experiencing the benefits of this landmark policy," Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said, in part, in a statement to Action News. 

"Nevadans can receive affordable coverage because of ACA, small businesses are eligible for tax credits and, because of ACA, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage," Sen. Harry Reid's office said, in part, in a statement to Action News.

The health exchange board is set to meet again on Feb. 13.

Michael Lopardi

Michael Lopardi

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