New enrollment numbers show Nevada’s health insurance exchange is still 30,000 shy of meeting revised targets by the end of the month, and with only three weeks to go until the deadline, achieving even the low-ball estimate will be a challenge.
To try to boost enrollment and compensate for problems that have plagued Nevada’s state-run web portal called Nevada Health Link, the board overseeing the system will consider extending the March 31 deadline for consumers stuck in the system when it meets Thursday.
Officials say 30,000 people have selected insurance plans through the state exchange as of Saturday. Of those, about 21,000 have actually paid for coverage — roughly 1,000 more than the week before.
But the total is well short of the downgraded target of 50,000 enrollments by March 31 and nowhere near the 118,000 originally projected before the system went live Oct. 1 and was quickly mired in problems.
CJ Bawden, spokesman for the exchange, said a “special enrollment period” is being considered for people who already have an account with Nevada Health Link by the deadline but were unable to complete enrollment because of “system issues.”
Many problems have stymied Nevada’s exchange: long wait times for telephone assistance; billing errors; and premiums paid for but coverage that cannot be confirmed. Much of the finger-pointing has been directed at Xerox, which was awarded a $75 million contract to build the state website.
Of the 14 states and the District of Columbia that opted to build their own online market exchanges, Nevada’s ranks among the poorest performers.
Xerox officials have apologized and said they are making progress to correct defects. As of last week, the company said 148 system defects were resolved as of the end of February and they are on track to correct 40 more by month’s end.
Xerox is being paid in stages only as performance benchmarks are met. But frustrations are high, and Nevada officials are out of patience, with one board member calling the operation a “full failure.”
The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board has recommended another tech company, Deloitte Consulting, be hired to assess the system built by Xerox. The state Board of Examiners chaired by Gov. Brian Sandoval is expected to consider a $1.5 million contract with Deloitte in the near future.
State officials said that while the assessment won’t be a quick fix, they’re hoping to resolve any lingering issues and have a smoother-running exchange by the time the next open enrollment period begins in the fall.