Brisk business as Nevadans seek health insurance

Brisk business for navigators, assistants, as Nevadans rush to buy health insurance online

Associated Press

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- Navigators and enrollment assistants reported long lines and heavy phone traffic Monday as Nevadans rushed to sign up for health insurance on the last day to receive coverage effective Jan. 1.

"We're absolutely swamped," said Andres Ramirez, president of the Ramirez Group in Las Vegas, one of several navigators designated to help people obtain insurance through Nevada's online market portal.

"We have people lined up out our door. We still have walk-ins, people are asking for help. Our phones are ringing nonstop," Ramirez said.

"We're extremely busy," echoed Ryan Bernardino, manager for Nevada Health Centers with 16 locations statewide. "Every single day we get hundreds of phone calls and voicemails. We're trying to keep up."

While the federal government extended for one more day, until Tuesday, the deadline for signing up in case of heavy demand on the federal government website, Nevada's deadline remained 11:59 p.m. Monday, said CJ Bawden, spokesman for the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, which oversees Nevada's state-run web portal called Nevada Health Link.

Nevadans who select policies by the deadline must pay for them by 6 p.m. Friday.

Bawden said paid enrollments, which got off to a slow start in October, have picked up steadily and surged in the past few weeks.

He said the website has averaged 100,000 new visitors per week in the last two weeks.

Over the weekend paid enrollments doubled from about 3,100 to more than 6,000 as of midday Monday. Many more plans have been selected but not yet paid for.

Final numbers won't be released until after this first enrollment period ends.

While Monday's deadline was for policies to take effect at the start of the new year, people have through March to enroll and avoid penalties. Based on observations from some navigators, the pace of demand will carry into 2014.

Enrollment assistants have been scheduling appointments to help people, and some of those are weeks out.

"We're just fully booked," Bernardino said.

Some navigators reported a two-month backlog, with appointments made in October being filled in December.

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