By JENNIFER ROBISON
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
The hospital bills are hitting Larry Basich’s mailbox.
That would be OK if Basich had health insurance. But he doesn’t.
Thing is, he should be covered. Basich, 62, bought a plan through the state’s Nevada Health Link insurance exchange in the fall. He’s been paying monthly premiums since November.
Yet the Las Vegan is stranded in a no-man’s-land where no carrier claims him, and his tab is mounting: Basich owes $407,000 for care received in January and February, when his policy was supposed to be in effect. Instead, he’s covered only for March and beyond.
Basich has begged for weeks for help from the exchange and its contractor, Xerox. But Basich’s insurance broker said Xerox seems more interested in lawyering up and covering its hide than in working out Basich’s problems. Nor is Basich the only client facing plan-selection errors through the exchange, she added.
Xerox, meanwhile, said it’s working every day to fix Basich’s problem, and its legal counsel is routine.
In the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its insurance exchanges, you can find a success story for every failure. But Basich’s case is extreme.
Basich said he began trying to enroll on Oct. 1, the day the exchange website went live. Like many consumers, he fought technical flaws during multiple sign-up attempts. In mid-November he finally got through and chose his plan: UnitedHealthcare’s MyHPNSilver1.
“It was like reaching the third level of Doom,” Basich said of the torturous sign-up process.
Basich paid his first premium on Nov. 21, and within days the exchange withdrew the $160.77 payment from his money-market savings account. Because Basich paid a month before the Dec. 23 deadline, his coverage was to begin Jan. 1.
Weeks ticked by, but Basich received nothing to confirm he had insurance. Nevada Health Link kept telling him he was enrolled, but UnitedHealthcare said he wasn’t in their system.
Basich’s predicament went critical on Dec. 31, when he had a heart attack. His treatment, which included a triple bypass on Jan. 3, resulted in $407,000 in medical bills in January and February that no insurer is covering.
Basich and his insurance broker, Tamar Burch of Branch Benefits Consultants, said the issue appears to be confusion at the state exchange. Xerox’s system says Basich chose a plan from another insurer, Nevada Health CO-OP, even though Basich has paperwork that shows he selected MyHPNSilver1. In short, Xerox can’t seem to decide where Basich belongs, Burch said.
So the exchange is trying to compromise, putting Basich with Nevada Health CO-OP for January and February, when he incurred his bills, and with UnitedHealthcare from this month on. But CO-OP officials say Basich is not their member.
Nevada Health CO-OP CEO Tom Zumtobel told the exchange board on Feb. 27 that the nonprofit carrier spent seven days with Xerox determining Basich’s eligibility, only to find that Basich hadn’t chosen the group’s coverage.
“If he had picked our health plan, we would be advocating for a solution. But he didn’t pick us,” Zumtobel said. “We need someone on the board to advocate for him.”
Why have four months passed without a resolution?
“Xerox is truly out of their league. They need to understand they are an administrator, they are not an insurance company,” Burch said. “They need to understand their boundaries. They don’t understand this world. Everybody is at the mercy of Xerox, and they are not doing this right.”
Xerox representatives responded that they’re working hard to make it right.
“Mr. Basich’s issue is complex, and we’re working on it every day. We are in touch with Mr. Basich, his broker, the carriers, (Silver State Health Insurance Exchange) leadership, and the Division of Insurance to sort it out,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer.
The help didn’t come fast enough, said Basich, who blames his back-and-forth with the exchange in December at least in part for stress that caused his heart attack. That stress has turned up a few notches now that Basich is getting the bills. He fretted in the exchange board’s Thursday meeting about what will happen to his credit rating — and his ability to qualify for a mortgage — if the bills are not covered.
“All I wanted to do when I moved here was buy a house, get a dog and go to some spring training games for the Dodgers,” said Basich, who moved to Las Vegas from Hawaii in 2012.
Meanwhile, the exchange sent Basich premium invoices for January and February. He paid them both.
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