2,000 seek coverage through Nev. health exchange

2,000 apply for insurance through Nev. online health exchange; 700-plus plans purchased

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Hundreds of Nevadans purchased coverage through the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange during the first week of its operation, and thousands more submitted applications.

After a rocky Oct. 1 start, including a 17-minute delay in launching the Nevada Health Link website and intermittent shutdowns, the site is now running more smoothly.

The online health exchange where people shop for insurance and see if they qualify for subsidies is part of the federal health care law mandating coverage by 2014.

As of Tuesday, more than 2,000 people had submitted applications for available health plans. After learning about their options, more than 700 applicants had returned to the site to buy coverage. Counting dependents, they accounted for 806 future exchange members.

Exchange spokesman CJ Bawden said the site had been averaging 4,000 hits a day before the launch of the exchanges Oct. 1. That day, the number of visitors grew tenfold.

Bawden said the early demand exceeded expectations. "It's a sign that people are very interested in what's going on, and they want to know what their options are."

As of Tuesday, nearly 90,000 "unique" users had visited the site.

Nevada has the second highest percentage of uninsured residents in the nation, with about 605,000 people, or 23 percent of the population, lacking insurance.

The online exchange allows people to sign up for private insurance or refers those who meet income eligibilities to the state welfare system, through which they can apply for Medicaid and Nevada Check Up, an insurance program for low-income children. The number of Medicaid recipients in Nevada is expected to grow by 36 percent, to 490,000, by the end of fiscal 2015 as the state expands eligibility for Medicaid coverage under the health law.

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