The good news is Nevada officials say signing up for health insurance under Affordable Care Act should be much smoother this time than it was a year ago.
The bad news is, even if you managed to get through the clunky, badly designed system last time, you’ve got to enroll again before Dec. 15 if you want you’re your insurance premium subsidy to continue next year.
“We have a fairly aggressive messaging campaign,” said exchange director Bruce Gilbert, noting TV commercials, emails and mailers are going out to the 36,827 people who bought insurance plans through Nevada Health Link.
The open enrollment period started today with both a new and improved website up for customers, new tools to help customers find a plan and determine if they qualify for Medicaid or a qualified health plan through the Affordable Care Act. If they qualify for a subsidy, the pre-screening tool also helps determine how much of a subsidy they’ll get to help pay insurance premiums.
The enrollment period, however, will remain open until Feb. 15.
After the disastrous experience with the Xerox call center and Internet site, the state converted to a federally supported state-based marketplace.
Consumers start the application or re-enrollment at NevadaHealthLink.com.
The pre-screening tool then forwards customers either to the federal Healthcare.gov website or to Access Nevada’s updated website for those qualifying for Medicaid and Nevada Check-Up.
Officials say one of the major issues with the Xerox system — paying monthly premiums — goes away. Instead of the state system attempting to handle that process, customers will now pay directly to their insurance carriers who are experienced in billing and collecting payments.
“You pay your carrier directly for your plan, not through a third party,” said Tyler Klimas, communications officer, with the health exchange.
Enrollees who need it also can access the state’s new Spanish language website at EnlacedeSeguroMedicoNevada.com.
Those who need assistance with the enrollment or re-enrollment can enter their zip code, which will produce a Google map with pins showing the address of a number of navigators, certified assisters and licensed brokers near the customer’s home.
Klimas said there will also be two “brick and mortar” offices staffed by agents, brokers and others that people can visit. One is in Las Vegas. The other is in Reno at 3937 S. McCarran Blvd. — the corner of Longley and McCarran near the Wet Hen Café.
Both are open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with extended hours on the 15th of each month: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. because the 15th is the cutoff for starting insurance coverage the following month.
Klimas said customers can walk in, get help from a professional and walk out with insurance coverage.
He said because of the changes, all those currently enrolled in a Qualified Health Plan through the Xerox system will need to re-enroll. If they don’t, they’ll automatically be rolled over into a new plan with their insurance carrier.
But he said they won’t get the subsidy they’ve been getting this year, which means their monthly premium would dramatically increase.
To get the subsidy, re-enrollees must create a new account at NevadaHealthLink.com. Their other alternative is to contact their insurance carrier directly and re-enroll with that company, which is going to qualify the customer for their subsidy. Officials say those who are satisfied with their current insurance carrier should contact that carrier directly for re-enrollment.
To qualify for continued financial subsidies, re-enrollees must do so by Dec. 15 so both their insurance and their subsidy carry over into 2015.
More information on re-enrollment is available at info NevadaHealthLink.com/re-enroll.
Those who qualify for Medicaid don’t have to re-enroll, Klimas said. Their annual eligibility documents will be mailed to them when they are required to update their financial information.
In addition, he said there’s no open enrollment period for Medicaid coverage. Those who qualify can do so at any time.
To expedite the process, officials say customers should have a Nevada Driver’s License or other picture ID, dates of birth and Social Security numbers for all household members, proof of Nevada residence such as a power bill, an estimate of their household income, copies of current health insurance information and employer contact information if the employer provides coverage. Resident aliens should also present proof of their status.
Despite the problems suffered this past year, officials say the percentage of Nevadans without health insurance has fallen from 23 percent a year ago to about 12 percent now.
Many of them went to Medicaid, which, during that process, more than doubled its enrollment from 300,000 to 621,000.
Klimas said this year’s process should go much more smoothly now that officials have scrapped a $75 million deal with Xerox and are using the infrastructure of the federal HealthCare.gov website.
“It’s difficult to make sure all of your folks who went through this nightmarish process are made aware that they need to start over again,” said Matt Callister, a lawyer leading a lawsuit against Xerox and Nevada.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.