Speedy aid sought for ill patients still uninsured through state’s health exchange

A local law firm is using what it calls a “novel” legal approach to get quick help for Nevadans who had trouble with the state’s health insurance exchange.

Callister Immerman & Associates on Thursday filed a type of action unusual in civil cases to compel the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange to establish a fund for a task force that would manually enroll critically ill consumers who paid premiums to Nevada Health Link but who had coverage delays.

The firm hopes its filing — called a writ of mandamus — will force immediate action, said partner Matthew Callister. Under mandamus, a court can order government officials to properly fulfill their official duties or correct abuses.

The firm’s filing also requested an order from Clark County District Court shortening the time in which to hear the plaintiffs’ motion.

“Some of our clients are so ill that if their needs are not addressed now, it is a matter of life and death,” Callister said.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include a husband and wife who applied for coverage in October, and weren’t covered until May. While they went without a plan, the wife developed an untreatable brain tumor, Callister said.

Another plaintiff was placed in both Medicaid and Health Plan of Nevada by Nevada Health Link, Callister said. Because of the mixup, neither insurer is taking responsibility for the plaintiff, who is Medicaid-eligible and has blood cancer, he said.

Callister’s solution would be a statewide panel of 10 to 20 insurance brokers to manually enroll people who have had trouble signing up for policies through Nevada Health Link’s website and call center.

A spokesman with the state exchange said the exchange does not comment on pending litigation.

From its Oct. 1 launch, software glitches on Nevada Health Link’s website prevented some from finishing applications or paying premiums. The website has also botched effective coverage dates and federal tax credits.

The exchange’s board decided in May to dump website contractor Xerox. The state will borrow the federal system’s eligibility and enrollment functions beginning in November.

In the meantime, the exchange needs a broker task force, Callister said. The task force would be funded with premiums paid to the exchange. Callister estimated the exchange is taking in $750,000 a month in premiums from roughly 36,000 paying members.

Thursday’s petition follows Callister’s April 1 filing of a class-action lawsuit against the exchange, Xerox and the state of Nevada on behalf of Nevadans who have paid premiums and not gotten coverage. The lawsuit has 150 plaintiffs, but Callister said there could be 6,500 more affected Nevadans.

A hearing is scheduled for July 3 to give Callister’s firm steering-committee status to lead the class-action case.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.