By Jackie Valley
The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange will not operate brick-and-mortar enrollment stores during this year's sign-up period for government-subsidized health insurance.
"It wasn't fiscally prudent to walk in that direction," Bruce Gilbert, executive director of the exchange, told board members at a meeting Thursday.
Last year, the exchange opened two enrollment stores -- one in northern Nevada and another at the Boulevard Mall in Las Vegas -- where consumers could enroll through Nevada Health Link with the help of insurance brokers and navigators.
The state spent more than $50,000 per month on rent for those locations, and less than ten percent of last year's enrollees came into the stores, Gilbert said. Based on those results and a smaller budget this year, the exchange chose not to reopen the stores.
Even so, Gilbert said the stores were useful in helping repair the organization's credibility after a disastrous rollout of the state-run exchange two years ago. The state fired Xerox, the tech firm that built faulty software for Nevada Health Link, last year and moved to a state-based exchange that uses the federal healthcare.gov platform for enrollment.
"Our first year was terrible," Gilbert said. "It didn't look like we knew what we were doing. (The stores) served a very important purpose, but it's not so compelling this year."
This year, insurance brokers and navigators will be available to help consumers with the enrollment process at broker offices, said Andres Ramirez, president of the Ramirez Group, which does outreach and marketing for the exchange. Enrollment events also will be held at agencies throughout the open enrollment period.
Open enrollment for 2016 health coverage starts Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 31.
(c)2015 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)