Nevada Health Link opened for business on Oct. 1, along with HealthCare.gov and several other state-based exchanges. Like many marketplaces, the Silver State’s exchange experienced serious glitches that prevented residents from enrolling in an Obamacare plan, and even lost commission payment information for registered agents and brokers.
However, unlike HealthCare.gov, Nevada’s exchange didn’t markedly improve with time. Officials on the exchange board say up to 300,000 people may have tried to choose a plan through the Xerox-designed marketplace, but were prevented by serious program errors. Currently, just 22,000 Nevadans have successfully enrolled and paid for health policies.
In response to the difficulties, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Board voted Thursday to stay open for business 60 days past the March 30 deadline. Las Vegas agency owner Larry Harrison is relieved.
“It’s such a long, laborious process and I experience errors every day, all day long,” Harrison said. “I absolutely thing [extending the deadline] is the right thing to do. Here these people are doing their best to stay in compliance, and if Xerox was too inept to put together a workable system, they should have an extra few days to get coverage.”
Harrison’s story is not unique among producers, and neither is Nevada’s—at least among state exchanges.
While President Obama and Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have repeatedly avowed that the March 31 deadline is final, officials in Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts and Oregon are all toying with the possibility of extending the deadline to people who can prove they attempted to enroll in a plan, but were thwarted by website malfunctions.
Even CMS officials are said to be considering a potential extension for enrollees through HealthCare.gov, which services about two-thirds of Americans.
Not all producers share Harrison’s support for a deadline extension, however.
“I don’t know that [an extended enrollment period] is really needed,” said Neil Crosby, a spokesman for the National Association of Health Underwriters. “Yes, there have been plenty of times where HealthCare.gov hasn’t worked properly, but I think there’s been plenty of time since then that people have been successfully enrolling.”
With the help of independent agents, navigators and other community resources, those who wanted to should have been able to enroll by now, and agents are ready to take a well-deserved break, he said.
“There’s been six full months,” Crosby stressed. “I think the agents feel that’s plenty of time and that they’ve made themselves plenty available.”
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