Fewer than 13,000 Nevadans had signed up for health insurance on the state-run exchange by Monday’s deadline to obtain coverage at the start of the near year.
Exchange officials said 12,745 confirmed policy selections were made by the 11:59 p.m. Monday deadline. Payment on about half of those was still needed by 6 p.m. Friday to ensure coverage as of Jan. 1.
The enrollment numbers are unimpressive considering officials with the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange set a target enrollment of 118,000 by the end of March, when the first sign-up period ends.
“It will be challenging to meet the 118,000 goal, but we are working to make sure Nevadans have all the insurance options available to them and have the ability to enroll,” said exchange spokesman CJ Bawden.
Reasons for the lackluster enrollments were not immediately clear.
Navigators and enrollment assistants reported brisk business in the days leading up to Monday’s deadline, and the exchange reported averaging 100,000 new visitors per week since mid-December.
But according to the exchange’s Facebook page, many people reported problems trying to sign up online through the Web portal, www.nevadahealthlink.com, or getting through on the phone on the last day.
“Website is white screening. Phone number is saying it cannot connect,” wrote one unhappy consumer. “Looks like a lot of people won’t meet the deadline due to the program not functioning.”
Another wrote, “On hold over 51 minutes. Unable to log on ... frustrated in Tahoe!”
It’s also unknown how many people were trying to sign up for Medicaid or another insurance program for low-income children — a problem that Jon Hager, executive director of the exchange, acknowledged was contributing to long wait times for telephone assistance.
“That caught us by surprise,” Hager told exchange board members this month.
Nevada is expecting a surge in Medicaid enrollments under the law that gave states the option to expand eligibility. In January, Nevada for the first time will allow single adults without children into the Medicaid program if their income is at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $15,856.
Those enrollment figures have not been calculated yet, but the state Department of Health and Human Services reports Medicaid participants in November rose to 336,949, up 2,645 from the month before and nearly 24,000 from the same month a year ago.
Since July the state Welfare Division has hired 100 staffers in anticipation of continued growth in the number of Medicaid recipients. State officials project Nevada’s number of Medicaid recipients will grow to 490,000 by the end of the 2015 fiscal year.