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October 23, 2014

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Nevada health exchange director resigns

Updated Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 | 9 p.m.

CARSON CITY — The executive director of Nevada's beleaguered health insurance exchange announced his resignation Thursday amid increasing criticism and frustration over the operation of the state-run online web portal.

Jon Hager said he was leaving March 14 to pursue new opportunities.

"The knowledge and experiences I have gained as executive director of the exchange will prove invaluable in my working career," Hager said in a statement. "I am grateful to the board and the governor for this incredible opportunity to serve Nevadans.

"However, it is time to use my new found knowledge to pursue the opportunities that have been offered to me."

Hager did not immediately respond to requests by The Associated Press for further comment.

Hager has overseen Nevada's health insurance exchange since it was authorized by lawmakers in 2011.

Gov. Brian Sandoval thanked Hager for his service to the state.

"The launch of Nevada Health Link was a significant undertaking and Jon worked tirelessly on this unique and unprecedented endeavor," Sandoval said in a statement.

But Nevada's online web portal created as part of the federal health care reform law has been beset with problems, including website errors and long wait times for telephone assistance. Nevada was one of 14 states plus the District of Columbia that opted to set up their own exchanges under the federal law.

Much of the blame on Nevada's exchange woes has been put on Xerox, which was awarded a $75 million contract to design and operate the system. Hager, however, has not escaped the mounting criticism.

The board of directors of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange last week called Nevada's website, Nevada Health Link, a failure and said the state should be making alternative plans, including possibly scrapping the site and letting the federal government take over.

The exchange last week also lowered it projected target enrollment to 50,000 by March 31, down from 118,000 initially anticipated. But Hager said at the time that even meeting the new goal would be challenging.

That brought heated words from some board members.

"You don't just get to move the goal posts," Vice Chairwoman Lynn Etkins said.

"What about those other 66,000 people we suggested we were going to enroll? These are not numbers. These are people throughout the state who don't have health insurance."

As of early February, roughly 24,000 people had selected plans through the exchange, though more than 80,000 had been deemed eligible for coverage.

In his monthly report to the board, Hager conceded January was "a difficult month," with persistent website errors, long wait times at the call center, frustrated consumers and low enrollment.

The board is scheduled to meet Friday for an update on corrective actions taken by Xerox.

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