CARSON CITY, Nevada — Nevada's health insurance exchange has signed up a mere 513 people since it went live Oct. 1, less than half a percent of the overall enrollment target set for the state-run online insurance market.
Jon Hager, executive director of Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, said about 2,000 people have confirmed policies to purchase but have not yet completed the transaction with payment for plans to take effect Jan. 1. Until payment is made, they are not considered "sold."
In a briefing Tuesday to the Board of Examiners, Hager said about 26,000 people have been pre-determined to be eligible for Medicaid or tax credit subsidies to buy policies.
Nevada is one of 15 states that opted to set up their own insurance exchanges under the federal health care law. Other states left the task to the federal government.
"I thought the prudent course was for the state to run its own," said Gov. Brian Sandoval, chairman of the board that also includes Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. Sandoval began planning for the state exchange in 2011 despite opposing the 2010 law.
The exchange has an enrollment target of 118,000 by the end of March, when the sign-up period ends. People who enroll by then will avoid any penalties for not having insurance. After that, the next open enrollment period does not begin until mid-October of next year.
Hager said the website has been viewed 2.8 million times by 310,000 unique visitors.
He said he believes consumers are doing their "due diligence" comparing plans before making a purchase. He expects the volume to increase as the Dec. 15 deadline nears for coverage that takes effect on the first of the year.
Hager said there's been confusion about health exchanges. He stressed that Nevada's exchange is not associated with the insurance exchange run by the federal government that has come under increased scrutiny for technical glitches, security concerns and other problems.
"Our data is secure," he said.
According to the Nevada Division of Insurance, 24,623 people with existing policies have received cancellation or non-renewal notices from their insurer because the policies don't meet the new law's requirements. An estimated 80,000 to 90,000 policies in Nevada are sold on the private insurance market.
Hager said he anticipates some of those who have had their policies canceled will seek new coverage through the exchange.
Hager said the website's Spanish language portal will be available next week, and other problems that slowed the system in the early days are being worked out and are "not much of a factor" anymore.
"There have been errors. We have been improving every day," he said.
Mike Willden, director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said he expects a surge in Nevada Medicaid recipients by year's end. Under the federal law and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld it, states were given the option to expand Medicaid eligibility. Nevada for the first time will allow low-income single adults without dependent children to qualify.
At the July 1 start of the fiscal year, Nevada had 320,000 Medicaid recipients, Willden said. That number has since grown to 334,000, and Willden said caseloads will continue to increase when the new eligibility standards kick in Jan. 1.