Geoff Dornan

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January 10, 2014
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Contractor agrees Health Exchange wait times unacceptable

Agreeing that waits of 60-90 minutes to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act are unacceptable, representatives of the contractor providing the Internet and call center services said they were expanding call centers to deal with the problems.

The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board was told Thursday even if individuals or brokers call at 8 a.m. when the call center opens, they will wait 60-90 minutes before getting through.

Kevin Walsh of Xerox, the state-hired contractor for the health exchange, agreed saying the center should be answering calls “in the range of 3-5 minutes.”

He said the company seriously underestimated how many people they would need in the call center, starting out with just 50. They doubled that, “but it was still not adequate,” he said.

Now, Walsh said, Xerox is adding another 50 people to answer the phones and will have them on board by the end of the month.

He said that should begin to eliminate the backlog of calls and dramatically reduce wait times for service.

Exchange Executive Director Jon Hager said in addition to tripling staff, they have doubled the number of phone lines coming in to the call center.

They are trying to hire people from other businesses that have reduced their call center staffs and, therefore, will already have experience, Hager said.

Walsh said Xerox also is working on glitches in the website where people can sign up and intends to fully meet all the performance standards they promised when the company got the $75.5 million contract to develop Nevada’s system.

Walsh and his boss David Hamilton said the company is dedicated to making Nevada’s system work in part because they intend to market it elsewhere.

Chris Thompson, an individual who signed up under the ACA, told the board their staff was excellent and helped him through the process of getting insured. But he said he got an email Thursday in answer to a request for information he emailed in 35 days ago and that it was “a non-response.”

“All it says is call us,” Thompson said.

Brokers and navigators hired to help people with the sign-up process also complained about continued glitches in the Internet system as well as not being able to get back to the same call center worker they dealt with before on a case.

In part because of website and call center problems, the exchange is lagging far behind in enrolling people in health plans. As of Sunday, only 10,775 had registered, chosen and paid for a health plan. The exchange’s goal, however, is to insure 118,000 Nevadans who currently don’t have health insurance.

But as of that same date, Laura Rich of the exchange said they had qualified 39,498 people as eligible for subsidies to buy health care plans offered through the exchange and another 22,231 as eligible but without a subsidy.

Laura Rich of the exchange said they had identified 74,001 people as potentially eligible for health coverage under Medicaid or the children’s health insurance program CHIP.

Officials from Congress to the federal government to the state all agree the ACA system only works if it signs up substantial numbers of the so-called “young invincibles” — primarily healthy 20 and 30-somethings who don’t think they need health insurance.

Rich said about 21 percent of those signing up are in the 18-34 age range. Just 16 percent of those signed up are 17 and under while 63 percent are 35 and older.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jan 10, 2014 03:15PM Published Jan 10, 2014 12:15AM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.