A Web Designer’s Perspective on Applying for ACA Coverage on Nevada’s Health Link

logo-nv-enBack in March, I decided to finally look into health coverage on the government exchange.

Some background on me: I currently have individual private insurance through United Healthcare that costs $172 a month. It’s not a bad price, but the deductible is $5000 and the benefits are sparse. I see a doctor roughly 4 times a year and maintain an active lifestyle, so my medical needs are rather minimal.

I went to nevadahealthlink.com and started to browse plans. When I wanted to check eligibility, I was required to sign up. I couldn’t find a way to realize whether or not this insurance would work for me.

After signing up, the screen didn’t change – no success page was displayed and no email was sent—these are basic conventions of Internet communication and account creation that seem to have been lost.

Information regarding my status in the flow of creating an account, browsing plans, checking eligibility and finally submitting my application was non-existent.


While I clicked around I received a few errors, but being a web developer I knew how to push on, even when the screen says otherwise. I was unable to see plans in a clear comparison table; the site forced me into eligibility signup, so that’s what I did.

Below are a list of other usability snafus that could have been mitigated before production:

  • When filling out the address it couldn’t reconcile my physical so I had to tell it I had no home address. I live in a rural area where the USPS doesn’t deliver to homes, so using a USPS address check is a bad idea.
  • Even though I filled out the birthdate of my 2-year-old son, it asked if he was married.
  • The process proceeded on, and the only thing I noticed was that blue loading bar, which showed its ugly face after every radio button click.
  • I had to enter my wife’s address. Yep. It would have been simpler to ask “Does your wife live with you?” Again it couldn’t resolve the address, but luckily this time I could override it by clicking the “entered as correct” button.
  • Collecting information in other browser tabs from my online bank and my former employer’s website was a part of the application process, but the info I entered in Health Link’s forms was gone when I tabbed back. Likely a security feature, but a usability nightmare!
  • I was surprised the system couldn’t find the address of my wife’s employer. This is Nevada and there are a lot of rural roads. I wonder if anyone’s address was found?
  • The insurance form for my son, asked when coverage could start even though I was telling it he was already covered under my wife’s insurance.
  • The one thing I had no idea about was the “minimum value standard for health insurance”. Luckily there was a button for “I don’t know.”

I finally got to the point health insurance plans were listed and realized that the deductible and premium amounts were far higher than what I’m paying now. The sorting panel didn’t work well and attempts a refresh every 5 seconds, but because of traffic or other factors I had no idea how it was sorting the plans.

My current coverage doesn’t include dental, so I tried to sign up for a dental plan only, but the system was requiring a health plan even though they were visually presented as two choices. To understand better, I called the customer support number. I was soon lost in the telephone system. Trying to speak to someone was impossible and I gave up.

That first day I spent about 3 hours and didn’t get anywhere. I let it go for a while and then returned on deadline day, March 31st to see what I could do.


The site remembered me and I was able to login in fine, but something jumped out at me: my subsidy, the amount the government will give back in tax credits, was now listed as $116, but it was previously listed at $232, which makes a big difference in the affordability of the insurance. I saw that $232 is twice $116, and might have been the result of a computation error. But I wasn’t in the mood to assume, so I called the customer service number for explanation.

I spoke with customer service and they told me I should be able to sign up for a dental plan separate from the health plan. Unfortunately they could not tell me what the appropriate subsidy should be and that I needed to contact a broker, so that’s what I did.

So now I’ve gone from website, to customer service, to a broker, and guess what? The broker tells me I’m not eligible because my wife’s employer could offer me insurance that is deemed affordable. By whose standards? Getting on my wife’s plan would cost $280/mo. while private insurance costs me $172/mo. as mentioned earlier.

After over 5 hours, several bugs, misinformation, and a janky UI experience, I’m back to square one, and keeping my private insurance.