Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 | 6:33 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- The White House released a progress report on the state of health insurance exchanges across the country today, highlighting Nevada as one of 10 states on the road to establishing a standardized system of providing health care.
Health care exchanges, which states are required to implement under the new health care law, have been a flashpoint on the campaign trail for the last several months. They are at the heart of the Republican complaint that the government is trying to impose its will over the health care marketplace, and at the center of the lawsuit that will come before the Supreme Court on the health care bill this spring.
Nonetheless, 28 states -- including Nevada -- are already “on their way toward establishing their own Affordable Insurance Exchange,” according to the government report.
Last spring, Nevada received a partial, temporary waiver for implementing certain exchange requirements of the health care law. But the state’s still moving ahead toward the original 2014 deadline to establish the basic insurance exchange.
The state Legislature adopted a bill to set up the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange last June, a seven-member board was appointed in September, and Jon Hager, former CFO of the state public employee benefits plan, stepped in as executive director in December.
Nevada received a $4 million establishment grant from the federal government last summer to assist with the set-up and planning of the operation.
That Nevada was profiled is not any sort of endorsement by the Obama administration of its efforts thus far as a national model; the White House pointed out in the report that they only “illustrate the diversity of approaches and progress being made.”
The first major task of the appointed chairman and board will be to select a minimum, benchmark standard against which health plans participating in the system will be compared, and around which the exchange will function. In December, the federal Department of Health and Human services outlined the proposed guidelines for setting such a benchmark, from which states are allowed to pick a governing standard:
• one of the three largest small-group plans in the state
• one of the three largest state employee health plans
• one of the three largest federal employee health plan options
• the largest HMO plan offered in the state’s commercial market.
Nevada has not yet made any decisions on that front.