Health exchange adds staff to address problems as deadline nears


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Health exchange adds staff to address problems as deadline nears

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Dec 18, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Frustration is building for people struggling to select health insurance through Nevada's online insurance exchange.

The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange said Wednesday its adding staff and taking action to address problems with the Nevada Health Link website as a deadline nears for commercial plans.

"I started the process and then just came to a stand still with this unresolveable issue," said Vickie Ingram, a self-employed realtor from Las Vegas.

The issue is an error message that pops up on the screen. Other people have turned to Action News this week after running into the same problem. When they try to reach the call center, customers said they often receive busy signals or were unable to get through.

"I have no way of talking or communicating with anybody about it," said Ingram, who said she emailed customer service. "Nobody has contacted me."

Ingram said she has health insurance but was hoping to find a cheaper plan. Others aren't so lucky. People who want coverage from a purchased plan by Jan. 1 must enroll by Dec. 23.

"We understand those who are frustrated," said Jon Hager, executive director of the state's health exchange. "We are doing our best to resolve those issues as we can."

Via Skype, Action News spoke with Hager in Carson City.

Action News asked if there is any concern that people who want to enroll may miss the deadline because of the problems.

"There is some concern about that and we're doing everything we can to make sure that people have the ability to enroll by the 23rd," Hager said.

Hager said the errors are likely connected to a surge in online visitors; the website received roughly 1.3 million hits just last week. As of Dec. 14, 8,874 qualified health plans selections had been made, the agency reported through Twitter.

Nevada Health Link was taken offline for ten minutes on Tuesday to install a fix for people who couldn't reach a web page to select their plans, Hager said.

The state is adding ten people to its call center on Thursday and will add trunk lines, increasing the system's call capacity, he said. The health exchange is also adding six people to answer email complaints.

"As we encounter errors that are blocking people from the process we are fixing them as quickly as we possibly can and it improves everyday," Hager said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval was in Las Vegas on Wednesday for an event. He called the site a "work in progress." Action News asked the governor if the state is doing enough.

"This is something that is happening for the first time," Sandoval said. "I've been getting positive feedback and negative feedback."

The health exchange is encouraging people to make payments through the automated phone system after hours when call volume decreases. Volume on the website generally decreases after around 4 p.m., Hager said, noting the site may be easier to navigate in the later hours. Some users may need to clear the cache on their browser or try a different browser, he said.