Exchange signups improve; issues persist
May 10, 2014
Thousands more people have enrolled for health coverage in the past month through Nevada's insurance exchange, but problems persist, state officials were told this week.
Nearly 35,000 people enrolled in a qualified health plan through Nevada Health Link as of May 3, halfway through a two-month special enrollment period that ends May 30. An additional 11,000 have selected plans but not yet paid for them.
Only people who tried but were unable to obtain coverage because of persistent computer errors during the open enrollment that ended March 31 were given extra time to complete the process.
But members of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board said over the past two weeks complaints have increased from carriers and others about billing problems that have plagued the system built by Xerox since it went live Oct. 1.
"We can see that people are picking plans but nobody's paying," board Chairwoman Barbara Smith Campbell said. "I think it's something that needs to be addressed quickly. It's great that they pick a plan, but if they don't pay, they're not in the special enrollment."
Xerox spokesman Greg Vitiello said the company was investigating the source of the problem.
Board member Lynn Etkins echoed Campbell's comments.
"I've probably had more complaints from carriers and brokers than I have for a long time," Etkins said. "There is something continually wrong or going backward. The number of complaints has just — it's bad."
The latest glitch comes as the board considers whether to stay with Xerox and try to fix the system before the next open enrollment period in the fall; go with a program successfully launched by another state; transition to the federal health exchange; or start from scratch with a new bid.
Art Rempp, operations director for Saint Mary's Health Plans, said electronic files on enrollments and payments are not being received. Saint Mary's is one of four carriers offering policies on the exchange.
"Providers call to ask eligibility of members and we are unable to confidently provide this information," Rempp said.
He concluded, "Our reputation as a quality health insurance company is being tarnished and is of great concern to our organization. Xerox must find solutions immediately as we cannot tolerate the lack of resolution and lack of urgency any longer."
Lou Cila, an insurance broker, cited payment and system problems in written comments and urged the board to get rid of Xerox.
"I would hope the board moves firmly, terminates Xerox as the vendor and appoints a new contractor to finish the job," he wrote.
Others worried that changing systems now would bring new problems.
"Divorce is costly. And the outcomes unpredictable," said Ted DeCorte with Consumer Assistance & Resource Enterprise, a designated navigator to help with enrollments.
"If we change vendors, there is no guarantee that the 'new' Nevada Health Link will be ready for the next open enrollment, or beyond."
He said a better course is to fix the current system.
Steve Fisher, interim director of the exchange, said he is meeting with federal officials next week in Washington, D.C., about alternatives. Exchange staff is also drafting cost and feasibility reports on options.
Board members indicated they could make a decision before the end of the month.