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Insurance co-op reports high volume in Obamacare debut

<p>Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - Screen Shot</p>

Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - Screen Shot

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With the opening of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, which launched this week as part of the Affordable Care Act, one insurance cooperative serving the greater Nye County area reports it has received a high volume of calls from potential customers expressing interest in their product and seeking assistance in the insurance enrollment process.

The Nevada Health Co-Op, a non-profit insurance company controlled by its members, began accepting applications for coverage Tuesday as Nevadans across the state are facing a mandate under the Affordable Care Act that they be insured by the start of the coming year.

According to the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, more than 588,000 people under the age of 65 in Nevada are without health insurance.

By Wednesday evening, more than 24 hours after the Nevada health insurance exchange opened for business, approximately 63,000 people had visited the exchange website and 18,806 accounts were created on Nevada Health Link.

Bobbette Bond, a member of Nevada Health Co-Op’s leadership team, said the insurance company’s call center received hundreds of calls from potential customers in the first day alone.

Bond said NHC is one of several providers Nevada consumers can choose from on the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange and that the company currently offers plans for both individuals and small companies of 50 employees or less who are seeking insurance.

“We’ve got plans statewide and in the South that really includes most of the Pahrump readers — Esmeralda County, Nye County, Lincoln County and Clark County, that’s considered the Southern Nevada Tier for us. In that world we have both individual and shop plans and they’re both offered on and off the exchange,” she said. “It’s a PPO network so people have a choice and we’ve contracted with quite a few doctors and they can use that PPO network in either the individual or shop. In the individual it can be bronze, silver, gold or catastrophic, and in the shop it can be gold, silver, or bronze and (employers) can purchase or help their employees purchase their insurance.”

The difference between the plans offered on and off the health exchange comes down to the way customers must complete enrollment for those plans, Bond explained.

“Individuals who are subsidy eligible really need to go on the exchange to finish their enrollment and select a plan because they can’t use the subsidy if they’re not attached to the exchange.” she explained. “Anybody who’s eligible for subsidies can enroll through the exchange, but they can come to our website first, get set up, call our people and select their plan and then our customer service is going to walk them over to the exchange and finish that for them. So we do the whole thing regardless, but they have to finish on the exchange to get the subsidy.”

The benefit of going off the exchange for those who aren’t eligible to receive government assistance in paying their insurance premiums is the off exchange enrollment process is faster and has less steps.

“Off the exchange is faster. If you know you’re not eligible for a subsidy, you don’t really need to go on the exchange to get coverage, because it is a much faster process off the exchange, you don’t have to enter your family income, your family size, its fewer application requirements off the exchange. And you can do both of those through our website,” Bond said.

As NHC continues to enroll customers for the 2014 coverage year, Bond said the co-op is working to set up plans off the exchange for larger companies with more than 50 employees for the future.

Though there were some reports of issues with the state health exchange website Tuesday as large numbers of Nevadans attempted to access it, Bond said the NHC call center employees were still able to get customers the majority of the way through the enrollment process on their end before scheduling a later time to complete the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange enrollment process.

“There’s a lot more questions than we expected and there are very short call wait times on our phones so it’s great for people to call us,” Bond said.

“Our website is active and live and has a couple of small issues we’re working out, like next week Spanish will be on there, and having a search for provider function, we’re building that, but other than that you can do a lot on our website now. And by using our subsidy calculator people can figure out if they’re eligible for help. I think it will really help guide people whether or not to go on the exchange or staff off the exchange. Those are the main things. And I do want people to know the Nye County Medical Center is in our network, so that’s good. We have a lot of providers in Tonopah and Pahrump actually,” she added.

For more information on the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange visit http://exchange.nv.gov/

For more information on the Nevada Health Co-Op visit http://nevadahealthcoop.org/ or call 702-823-COOP (2667).

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