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State gets wave of Medicaid apps, more struggles with exchange website


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State gets wave of Medicaid apps, more struggles with exchange website

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Jan 7, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The state is dealing with a wave of new Medicaid applications, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and some are still having trouble applying through the exchange's website.

The health care law went into effect Jan. 1 but not everyone had a chance to sign up.

"You get frustrated, you get angry," said Michael Washington of Las Vegas. "I'm just going to give up but you can't."

Washington is uninsured and qualifies for Medicaid but he's run into error messages trying to submit his application through Nevada Health Link. 

Washington said he's tried to complete the process since November. On Tuesday, he was waiting on hold to speak with a state representative about the problem. Running out of patience, he emailed Action News.

"That's very frustrating," Washington said. "Like I said, I dealt with computers so I know a little bit about computer programming."

He's not alone. Others have turned to Action News over the last month after receiving the error messages. The good news: the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange said there's no deadline to enroll in Medicaid coverage; but many people heard about the December deadline for commercial plans and rushed to sign up before the new year.

"According to the news, we're supposed to sign up and have our coverage so you don't get a fine, which of course everyone's worried about," said Washington.

The Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services received more than 30,000 Medicaid applications in December, about three times the typical monthly average, said spokeswoman Miki Allard. The office typically strives to process applications in about 45 days but that's now a challenge, she said.

Meanwhile, Nevada Health Link plans to add another 50 people to its call centers, meaning a total of 150 people will soon be answering phones, executive director Jon Hager said.

Customers are encouraged to enroll sooner rather than later. Hager said the exchange is also working to correct problems with the website.

"As we get reports of errors, we research them as quickly as possible and try to deploy fixes as necessary," Hager told Action News over the phone from Carson City.

The new health care law and its requirements are complex, making it virtually impossible for the welfare office to quickly hire and train temporary staff, Allard said. Still, the agency said it's working as quickly as possible to review the Medicaid applications. 

Health exchange spokesman CJ Bawden said some Medicaid applicants are running into trouble because they unknowingly haven't completed the online process. Medicaid applicants must still select an appropriate health plan, often listed at $0, add the plan to the online cart and check out in order to send the application to the state, he said.

The deadline for open enrollment in a commercial plan - separate from Medicaid - for the year is March 31. Hager said people should not wait until the last minute to sign up.