The revelation that more than 10,000 Nevadans remain without health insurance despite having signed up for coverage and paid premiums through Nevada’s Silver State Exchange is one more black eye for the struggling program and its glitch-plagued website, developed by Xerox. Meanwhile, the state has until March 31 to meet its goal of enrolling 50,000 eligible consumers in discounted health plans through the exchange. Bobbette Bond, a co-founder of Nevada Health Co-op, the non-profit insurer that has signed up nearly 40 percent of exchange users so far, shares what her group is doing to encourage participation.
The state’s original target was to sign up 118,000 people this cycle, then that goal was reduced to 50,000. So far, just over 20,000 have successfully registered and paid their premiums. Why has it been so difficult to get people to enroll?
There have been so many glitches in the Xerox products, and so many people that tried early on but didn’t complete their registration. People would be kicked off [of the website] when they started the enrollment process, or get all the way through and get kicked off when trying to make a payment. There were really long wait times on the phone. We still have people from January and February that say they enrolled and paid but we never got the information for them.
I think Xerox got a more complicated system up this year than they could really handle. They probably should’ve made it a really simple system the first year and focused on how it feels to consumers.
What is the Nevada Health Co-op doing to boost enrollment during these last few weeks?
We have a walk-in area for people to come and enroll, and we get about 50 a day. It’s right inside of Meadows Mall, across from the Springs Preserve. We’ve moved resources to make sure we have enough people in customer service for the walk-ins that need help.
We’ve also focused on Hispanic outreach. Our early commercials were really targeted at the Latino community, and our website has been bilingual since it got up and running. We have a presence at the Mexican Consulate.
Our best strategy for young people is that one of our plans is centered around the Turntable Health clinic Downtown. That center is brand-new, they have classes like yoga. So we’re hoping that will be a draw.
Can the ship be righted in time for the March 31 deadline, after which uninsured people will face penalties under the Affordable Care Act?
I think it’s getting better, but I don’t think it’s getting better fast enough for this enrollment period. I would predict they’re not going to make it to 50,000, though it’s possible we will get a big influx before the deadline. Hopefully next season [in November] will be a different enrollment experience.
Everyone needs coverage, and we’ve got a lot of uninsured. Consumers deserve for this to work.