It’s time for one last push.
Insurance carriers, consumer advocates and insurance brokers will be out in full force beginning Saturday as the March 31 deadline approaches to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Their message? With the state exchange’s Nevada Health Link website still hit or miss for many consumers, your best bet is to find a live person to help you sign up.
“We have people who go through enrolllment several times a day,” said Pam Egan, chief development officer of Nevada Health CO-OP, a nonprofit insurer created under Obamacare to sell coverage through the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. “They can tell you during the process whether a screen is truly frozen, or whether you need to give it a minute to proceed.”
Added Carolina Chacon, an associate with the Ramirez Group, Nevada’s largest enrollment-navigator firm: “Our enrollment assisters have processed dozens of applications a day since October. We’ve been through this process a lot of times. Someone signing up on their own for the first time might get confused by some of the language, put in the wrong information or not use the right browser. Our assisters have total knowledge of how to make the application process go more smoothly.”
Now, those groups are preparing to apply that knowledge to an enrollment blitz that starts this weekend.
The Ramirez Group is holding enrollment fairs Saturday and Sunday inside local JobConnect offices at 3405 S. Maryland Parkway; 2827 Las Vegas Blvd. North; and 119 S. Water St.
But the firm is holding what Chacon called its biggest event — “Get Healthy. Get Covered.” — on March 29 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. inside Cashman Center, at 850 Las Vegas Blvd. North. The health fair will include enrollment help from both Spanish- and English-speaking staffers, free medical screenings, fitness demonstrations and prize giveaways. All exchange insurers will be on hand to answer questions about specific plans, and Xerox, the contractor that’s building Nevada Health Link, will be there to “triage” sign-up issues, Chacon said.
She said the Ramirez Group expects 10,000 consumers to attend the event.
‘A VERY HECTIC TIME’
“It’s a very hectic time for us, but it’s really exciting to help thousands of people sign up for health insurance,” Chacon said. “We’ve had a lot of really great success stories, and the law has helped a lot of people already. We look forward to helping as many people as possible sign up for coverage before the deadline.”
UnitedHealthcare, the state’s largest insurer, is opening its doors at 2716 N. Tenaya Way on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help consumers understand coverage options, and to enroll them in the company’s Health Plan of Nevada policies. UnitedHealthcare will also be at the SMA Lifestyle Center, at 5820 S. Eastern Ave., Suite 100, on March 27 for meetings at at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
And Nevada Health CO-OP is opening its walk-in center at 3900 Meadows Lane from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday for an enrollment fair. There’ll be music, food, health screenings, raffles for gift cards and gym memberships, and a computer-tablet giveaway.
Traffic has already picked up inside the CO-OP’s walk-in center, which looks more like an Apple store — complete with chest-high tables populated with computer tablets — than an insurance-enrollment facility. Where 20 people a day might have stopped by in January and February, that rate had more than doubled to nearly 50 a day earlier this week, Egan said. The center was already busy during a late-morning tour Tuesday, with nearly a dozen consumers getting help signing up or checking in to learn about their new CO-OP benefits.
“We wanted the center to feel open, friendly and accessible,” Egan said of the building, which has a children’s play area and privacy rooms for consumers who want to talk to an enrollment counselor in more detail about their health issues. “It’s a consumer-centric approach. People love that they can talk to someone in person.”
‘NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK’
The CO-OP sells plans both on and off of the exchange, but the “vast majority” of consumers who ask about plans are subsidy-eligible and buying on the exchange, Egan said. The CO-OP has actually sold more plans through the exchange than any other insurer: It’s responsible for 37 percent of plans sold, beating out industry titans UnitedHealthcare and Anthem, the state’s two biggest insurers. The CO-OP had sold about 9,500 plans on the exchange and just under 1,000 off of it as of Tuesday.
“That’s not bad for the new kids on the block,” Egan said. “People were ready for something new.”
The hardest thing about launching has been “drinking from the firehose that is the challenges of the exchange,” said Egan, referring to website glitches that have kept a lid on enrollments. “But that’s been offset by the magic of working with folks who are so happy to have coverage. To hear people say they were able to get care they haven’t gotten in years makes it worth it.”
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.