Silver State Health Insurance Exchange officials OK special enrollment period

Nevada Health Link’s enrollment challenges won’t end with the March 31 enrollment deadline.

The board of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange agreed at its Thursday meeting to offer a special enrollment period for as many as 300,000 Nevadans who began but never finished an application for insurance coverage through Nevada Health Link’s website.

The special enrollment session would start April 1 and run for up to 60 days.

Even as they approved the special period, board members and state officials said they have serious doubts that Xerox, the contractor that’s building Nevada Health Link’s site, is up to the task.

The exchange’s original goal was to enroll 118,000 Nevadans by March 31, the deadline to buy coverage and avoid a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. But just 22,533 people had bought and paid for coverage between Oct. 1 and Saturday. That is because persistent website glitches and call-center wait times have helped keep enrollments low, exchange officials say.

Now, Xerox might be faced with enrolling more than 10 times the number of current enrollees between April 1 and June 1.

Here is how the board got to 300,000 people: Xerox officials suggested on Thursday limiting the special enrollment period to the 10,000 or so consumers who have chosen a plan but not paid for coverage. As an alternative, they said, the board could consider a special session for the 78,000 people who have finished their application but not chosen a plan, or who have been declared eligible for a federal tax credit to help them afford premiums on plans bought through the website.

Xerox Vice President Greg Vitiello said that group of 78,000 includes duplicate applications, so he wasn’t firm on a final figure.

Vitiello added that Xerox would be ready on April 1 to “transition immediately” from open to special enrollment. He said the company would shift the 230 staffers in its Henderson call center from answering consumer questions to completing applications.

The board agreed that the special session would have to give a chance to anyone who started an application.

Vitiello said Xerox would have a more accurate number on application starts for next week’s board meeting and a plan for helping consumers through the special enrollment period.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.

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