Time ran out for Linda Rolain.
The Las Vegas woman died Monday, less than two weeks after her family went public with details about Nevada Health Link insurance exchange enrollment troubles that kept her from treatment in January for an aggressive brain tumor.
Rolain was one of about 150 Nevadans suing Nevada Health Link contractor Xerox for enrollment mix-ups that left them without the health insurance they paid for.
Rolain is the first to die of complications from an illness said to have gone untreated for lack of coverage. But observers close to her case say she may not be the last.
“We are worried that this is the first of many Nevadans who have life-threatening issues that may end up in such tragic circumstances. We urge all Nevadans to verify that their insurance is active and in place in light of the many problems that hundreds, if not thousands, of Nevadans have gone through,” Rolain’s law firm, Callister, Immerman and Associates, said in a statement.
Local insurance broker Pat Casale, who in May began to help Rolain with her enrollment issues, said he wouldn’t be surprised if there were at least another 100 Nevadans facing both coverage problems and “urgent and emergent” health care needs.
“I know a few that I have right now (are) in serious need of care — people who have actually paid premiums and have not received care,” Casale said.
Rolain’s husband, Robert, said the couple began trying to sign up in November, well ahead of the Dec. 15 deadline for January coverage. After wrestling with repeated sign-up problems, the Rolains bought a plan that took effect in March. But they said Xerox staffers miscommunicated the policy’s effective date, so they didn’t know until May that they had coverage.
Linda Rolain was first diagnosed with a brain tumor in early 2014, after a seizure in late 2013. Robert Rolain said in a June 19 news conference at the downtown Las Vegas offices of Callister, Immerman and Associates that his wife’s care was delayed for months because of their insurance troubles.
Robert Rolain alleges his wife’s tumor went from treatable in winter to fatal in spring as the couple fought for coverage.
Linda Rolain was admitted to hospice care in early June.
A Xerox spokesman said in a statement that the company would not “be able to comment on this tragic development.” A spokesman for Nevada Health Link was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
Casale blamed the coverage mishap on Xerox’s “ineptitude” and “inability to get paperwork and to process things through to” the Rolains’ insurer, Nevada Health CO-OP.
“This poor lady was told in January that she needed immediate attention,” Casale said. “Her doctor said if she had begun treatment in March, he might been able to give her quality of care, and she might have lived longer. She had no chance because of the delay.
“Ms. Rolain should have had coverage in January. (The Rolains) did everything they could to facilitate the acquisition of a health plan,” Casale added. “She suffered and she died all because of the negligence of a vendor who should not even be in the industry.”
The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange signed a $72 million contract with Xerox in 2012 to build Nevada Health Link. But software glitches kept legions of consumers from enrolling in plans when the health link opened on Oct. 1. The exchange enrolled just a third of the 118,000 sign-ups it targeted in its first year.
The exchange’s board decided in May to replace Xerox as the health link’s contractor. The exchange will borrow federal eligibility and enrollment functions in November while it looks for a permanent replacement system for 2015’s enrollment session.
Callister, Immerman and Associates filed its class action lawsuit on April 1 after Las Vegan Larry Basich ran up $407,000 in uncovered medical bills despite paying several months’ worth of premiums through Nevada Health Link.
Attorney Matthew Callister said on June 19 that he would seek faster legal action for gravely ill patients, including Linda Rolain.
“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.
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.