CARSON CITY, Nev. – Members of the board overseeing Nevada's health insurance exchange were surprised and annoyed Thursday to learn of problems still plaguing the state's online insurance portal.
The problems came after one man told the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board that he selected a policy to purchase but repeatedly had his credit card rejected. Christopher Thompson, former administrator for the state Division of Health Care Financing and Policy, said his many attempts to contact someone by phone or email were unsuccessful.
Thompson said he had narrowed his plan selection to two policies in early December. He tried to "live chat" with an exchange representative for help on prescription coverage to no avail, and when he tried to call, he kept getting a message that "all circuits are busy."
He finally chose a plan without the information. Then the system would not accept his credit card, even though it was valid.
"Overall, I called the call center about 100 times in the past 10 days," Thompson said. When he tried again Wednesday night, he was advised his wait time would be 86 minutes.
"I would like to be able to pay my bill today," he said, adding, "I am totally frustrated at this point."
Barbara Smith Campbell, chairwoman of the board, apologized to Thompson and directed a staff member to assist him after the meeting.
Vice Chairwoman Lynn Etkinsvice was concerned that staff and Xerox State Healthcare, the private contractor awarded a $75 million contract to design and implement Nevada's online insurance market, underestimated the volume of calls and staff needed to handle them.
"I just don't hear or sense a note of urgency from Xerox," Etkins said. "It's just very frustrating what I'm hearing."
Jon Hager, executive director of the exchange, said the call center in Henderson opened in October with 36 people to assist consumers. Another 15 completed training and began assisting callers last week. Xerox officials said they hope to have an additional 30 people on board by January.
"Admittedly, there are still some website issue," Hager said.
Hager also said the exchange underestimated the volume of calls from people seeking to sign up for Medicaid or another program for low-income children.
"That caught us by surprise," he said.
He said the number of calls has jumped from 1,200 per day to up to 2,400 per day as the Dec. 23 deadline looms for people to buy insurance for coverage that takes effect Jan. 1.
Board members also questioned whether problems cited by Thompson involving credit card payments were responsible for low enrollment numbers.
About 6,600 people have selected plans to purchase while roughly 1,500 have actually paid and officially enrolled.