CARSON CITY, Nev. — Switching to a federally supported state health exchange won't be immediate and will bring added confusion for Nevada consumers during the transition into next year's open enrollment period, an interim legislative committee was told Monday.
As Nevada moves from a health exchange operated by Xerox, consumers will be faced with three different call centers depending on the type of transaction, said Steve Fisher, interim director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.
Fisher added that while Nevada moved to terminate its contract with Xerox after months of persistent problems, the operator will continue to play a role in the health exchange through early next year.
"Xerox will have to continue their responsibilities today probably through March," Fisher told members of the Legislative Committee on Health Care.
Xerox will continue to operate a call center to provide assistance for people seeking to sign up for health insurance because of a qualifying life event, such as the birth of a child.
Once the next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15, consumers seeking to sign up for new coverage will be directed to a call center operated by the federal government, while Medicaid will have its own call center.
"For a period of time there will be three different call centers in play at the same time," Fisher said. He added that helping consumers find the right assistance will require "really good messaging."
A state board last month voted to terminate its $75 million contract with Xerox because of ongoing problems with computer errors and billings that began Oct. 1 when the website, Nevada Health Link, went live. To date Xerox has been paid about $12 million.
Though the open enrollment period ended March 31, a two-month special enrollment period was authorized for anyone who tried but failed to sign up for coverage because of system failures. That period ended May 30, but consumers have until June 15 to actually pay for coverage. As of May 23, about 36,000 Nevadans had purchased health policies through the exchange, far fewer than the 118,000 initially projected.
While enrollments for private insurance have lagged, Medicaid numbers have soared under expanded Medicaid eligibility.
There were 467,000 Medicaid enrollees as of the end of April — 50,000 more than anticipated, said Mike Willden, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services. Of those 83,000 people are newly eligible childless adults who did not previously qualify.
Willden projected Nevada's Medicaid numbers will reach 600,000 by the end of the year.
"That is substantial," he said.
Willden said on a per capital basis about 22 percent of Nevadans will have access to health care through Medicaid, up from 9 percent three years ago.