Published Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 | 10:19 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 | 11:35 a.m.
CARSON CITY — Nevada's health insurance exchange is seeing a surge in activity as a deadline draws near for people to buy insurance for coverage that takes effect Jan. 1, officials said Wednesday.
C.J. Bawden, spokesman for the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, said people have selected 6,629 plans since Oct. 1, up from 513 in the first month of operation.
Bawden said the state's online insurance portal, called Nevada Health Link, has had 539,000 unique visitors since it went live. That number includes 80,000 last week alone.
Bawden said the web portal has had 5.4 million site visits in all, with 940,000 coming during the first week of December.
The exchange has an enrollment target of 118,000 by the end of March.
Nevada was one of 15 states that opted to create and run their own health insurance exchanges called for under President Barack Obama's health care reform law.
Under the law and a U.S. Supreme Court decision, states also were given the option to expand Medicaid eligibility. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval agreed to the expansion.
At the July 1 start of the fiscal year, Nevada had 320,000 Medicaid recipients. That number by mid-November had grown to 334,000. Mike Willden, director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, has said caseloads will continue to increase when the new eligibility standards kick in Jan. 1.
According to statistics released Wednesday by the federal government, 28,500 people who used Nevada's exchange were found eligible for Medicaid or another program that provides insurance for low-income children.