Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 | 8:35 p.m.
The telephone call center to help Nevadans enroll in the state health insurance system is still not working and people are waiting 30 minutes to an hour before being answered.
The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange signed a $75 million contract with Xerox to run the center and other parts of the system that has signed up 10,700 individuals for coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The board of directors, at its meeting Thursday, heard complaints from various people about the telephone waits and busy signals.
Kevin Walsh, senior vice president of Xerox, said 50 more employees would be hired to bring the total to 150 workers at the call center in Henderson. He said he hoped the backlog would be eliminated.
Board member Lynn Etkins of Las Vegas said the 60-90 minute wait for telephone callers was "unacceptable" and so is 20-30 minutes. She pressed for assurances the waiting time would be lowered. Walsh said the standard of 3-5 minutes would be reached this quarter.
The exchange had predicted 118,000 people would choose one of the four private companies that joined the state system by the end of March. But Exchange Director Jon Hager conceded that number will "be extremely difficult to meet."
The agency said 68 percent of those who have registered and paid their insurance premiums are from Clark County; 22 percent from Washoe County; 8 percent from Carson City and the surrounding areas and 2 percent in 10 rural counties.
Of those who have enrolled, 63 percent are 35 years and older; 21 percent are in the 18-34 age group and 16 percent are 1-17 years old.
There has also been criticism that people who signed up and paid their premiums have not received their insurance card to present to the hospital or doctor to show coverage.
Hager said it takes the insurance company seven to 10 days to validate and prepare the card once they get the information from the state.
Figures supplied by the board show 57 percent of those enrolled signed up with Nevada Health CO-Op, 35 percent with Health Plan of Nevada and 14 percent each with Anthem and St. Mary's.
There were also complaints that consumers were hit with a $30 fee by at least one group that is helping Nevadans find the best health coverage plan. These are the people who can least afford the fee, said those who testified at the meeting televised between Carson City and Henderson. Hager said he would look into this problem.
The federal law, which became effective in September, requires that everyone have health insurance or face a fine.