Nevada’s health-system issues improve |

Nevada’s health-system issues improve

The Associated Press
Wendy Jackson, left, and others with Independence Blue Cross mark the opening health insurance exchange by providing information on health car reform at Suburban Station Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Philadelphia. Tuesday is the first day of the open enrollment period for new health insurance options under the 2010 federal health care law. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Public interest in Nevada’s health insurance exchange has exceeded expectations in the early going, and the bumpy start to the launch has made way for smoother navigating, officials said Wednesday.

“We’re rolling along,” said CJ Bawden, spokesman for Nevada Health Link, the state’s online insurance market that made its debut Tuesday, along with similar state and federal exchanges around the country.

Bawden said many of the hiccups that snarled opening day have been resolved. On Tuesday, many users who encountered website errors that prevented creating accounts or browsing available insurance policies.

“We got off the rocky trail and it’s smoothing out as we go,” he said.

“The only thing we’re having some problems with are identity-proofing some individuals,” Bawden added, noting that glitch stems from a federal government data hub.

As of midday, more than 63,000 “unique” users had visited the site and nearly 19,000 accounts were created. It wasn’t immediately known how many policies were actually purchased.

Workers at a call center have handled about 2,500 telephone queries since the exchange went live Tuesday morning.

Additionally, welfare officials said referrals from the insurance portal to the state system for welfare applications have gone smoothly.

Gov. Brian Sandoval was the first Republican governor in the nation to accept expanding Medicaid eligibility in Nevada as called for under the federal law. The state’s Medicaid recipients are projected to swell from 319,000 to around 490,000 by 2015.

The transition wasn’t as smooth elsewhere in the nation as in Nevada. Computer glitches frustrated people checking out their options under the new health care law, and Obama administration officials said Wednesday that the problems are mainly due to high consumer interest, not hidden flaws.

The Health and Human Services Department issued survival tips for aggravated consumers after 4.7 million unique visitors logged in to the website Tuesday. As new health insurance markets went live around the country, the federal call center also received 190,000 calls.

Agency spokeswoman Joanne Peters said people who find themselves at a “holding page” when they get on the website should not hit the refresh button or leave that page. If they do, they will lose their place in line.

Peters also reminded consumers that they have until Dec. 15 to sign up if they want coverage to start Jan. 1.

“While this overwhelming interest is continuing to cause wait times, there will be continuing improvements in the coming hours and days,” she promised. But the government still isn’t saying how many people have succeeded in getting through the process and signing up for insurance.

The debut of insurance marketplaces might have been a victim of the law’s own success. The initial sign-up day appeared to draw heavy interest that suggested pent-up demand for just the kind of coverage now being offered.

Tennessee State University student Sam Rutherford, 31, said he signed up for a policy Tuesday, some 15 years after a sledding accident that resulted in him losing several organs.

“I’ve been virtually uninsurable since that time,” he said.

In 36 states where the federal government is running the marketplaces, a snag involving security questions on users’ accounts cropped up repeatedly, preventing many from completing their enrollment.

Brett Graham, a consultant advising states, called that glitch “a real show-stopper.”

“If you can’t set up an account … you can’t enroll,” said Graham, of Leavitt Partners, a consulting firm run by former Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, who rolled out the Medicare prescription drug benefit under former President George W. Bush.

The government said Wednesday the problem is due to a high volume of users, not a programming glitch. Around the country, people using the federal website said they were still getting stuck on the page.