CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval said Wednesday he has run out of patience with the failures of Xerox, the company contracted to run Nevada’s health insurance exchange, to fix the many problems with the system that began operating Oct. 1.
Sandoval said he has been in personal contact with Ursula Burns, chairwoman and chief executive officer of the Xerox Corp., for the past two weeks trying to get the problems with wait times and website errors fixed.
“My biggest concern is the person who can’t get his or her prescription,” he said. “The person who may need access to medical care and not have the medical card and have a delay in that care.
“It’s personal for me but it’s more personal for Nevadans who are affected by this.”
Sandoval said Burns indicated to him that fixing the problems with the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, which is where Nevadans go to shop for health insurance under Obamacare, is the company’s top priority.
That would be the first time some insurance professionals would say they’ve heard any sense of urgency related to the exchange.
“The No. 1 person who should have known and been in on the ground floor of the issues when they first started is Brian Sandoval. I don’t think he was being given the straight skinny at all. It doesn’t appear that way,” said Las Vegas insurance broker Dwight Mazzone in a Tuesday interview with the Review-Journal.
Mazzone also said Xerox is just as responsible for unresolved issues.
“Strictly from my perspective, no one is held accountable across the board,” he said.
But Sandoval said he told Burns on Wednesday that there has been no significant progress in fixing the problems.
“They’ve made a promise to the state of Nevada and I intend to make them fulfill that promise,” he said in an interview in his office. “Their reputation is at stake. The buck stops here, but we hired Xerox to build this system and ensure that it works and right now it’s not.
“I believe her when she says it is the No. 1 priority of her company and that she has marshaled the resources to get the problems taken care of,” he said.
But as of Wednesday, Sandoval said he has not seen that progress.
“I need to see something,” he said. “I am going to hold Xerox’s feet to the fire.”
Las Vegas insurance broker Frank Nolimal said he was happy to hear that Sandoval “is putting some resolve to the contract.”
“We need relief to get people’s business on the books,” Nolimal said. “We’re spending so much time getting business on the books, and that should be the easiest part. Just get it fixed. That’s all we’re asking on behalf of the consumers in Nevada.”
In response to Sandoval’s concerns, the company issued a lengthy statement that said in part: “Xerox continues to be committed to Nevada Health Link and to helping Nevadans get access to affordable health care through the state’s health insurance exchange. We recognize that people have experienced considerable frustration with the exchange’s performance, and we regret the difficulties they have had.”
Xerox has only been paid about $12 million of the total $70 million contract to build and operate the exchange, authorized by Sandoval and the state Legislature to help Nevadans obtain health insurance as required under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The contract is entirely federally funded.
There is no other vendor that could take over the exchange.
Sandoval sought to establish a state-run exchange rather than rely on the federal government to operate it in Nevada.
Sandoval said that in his first conversation with Burns two weeks ago, she indicated that additional resources needed to fix the exchange, both monetarily and with personnel, would be dedicated to fixing the problems.
Sandoval said Burns acknowledged that the failures are the responsibility of her company.
Sandoval said it is unacceptable that Nevadans are not getting the service they need to sign up for health care coverage.
“I am extremely frustrated which is what has prompted me to personally engage with Ms. Burns,” he said.
Sandoval said a Jan. 29 article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal highlighting the problems prompted him to call Burns again on Wednesday. Burns indicated that she will visit Nevada in the next few days to see the situation for herself.
“I am not willing to let up on Xerox until this is fixed,” he said. “The deadline was yesterday. The deadline is get it fixed now. The time for patience is over.”
Nolimal said he doubted it would do any good for Xerox to send Burns to Nevada.
“What is the CEO going to do? They need to send out their head computer programmer or systems analyst. Sending out the CEO is just fluff. It’s just a PR thing,” he said.
The Xerox statement also cited specific actions it has taken to fix the problems, including increasing its call center staffing to meet the unanticipated level of need.
“We have more than 100 customer care representatives supporting Nevada Health Link now, and within the next two weeks we’ll have some 175 customer care representatives on the exchange,” the statement said.
The company said it has also instituted dedicated teams to address questions from brokers and for other issues that require special handling.
The statement said that Buck Consultants, a global HR benefits consulting services firm and a Xerox company, has deployed a team to Nevada to do an independent assessment of the exchange and ensure the company makes steady progress toward a smooth and efficient Nevada Health Link.
“This is a milestone moment in Nevada and U.S. healthcare history, and Xerox regrets any difficulties Nevadans may be experiencing, but we are fully dedicating ourselves to ensure they receive the healthcare support they deserve,” the statement said.
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