Las Vegas Sun

August 28, 2014

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Silver State Exchange faces tight deadlines to get back on track

Nevada must expedite its process for choosing a contractor that will rebuild the state’s broken health care software on the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, state officials said at an exchange board meeting Thursday afternoon.

The exchange board must hire a replacement that can build new software before the open enrollment begins in October 2015. It fired in May the company that built the exchange’s flawed software, Xerox.

For this year's enrollment period beginning in October, Nevadans will use the federal government’s exchange, healthcare.gov, to buy insurance plans in Nevada.

The state board is only using the federal infrastructure as a temporary stopgap.

With the disastrous rollout of the exchange fresh in the minds of Nevadans, the board and the state are calculating how to streamline the process. State officials estimate a transfer of the Xerox software to another company’s would take at least 10 months.

Without a change in the timeline, the exchange board would have to submit proposal requests for tech companies by either July 16 or Aug. 1.

The companies would have less than two months to respond to the request before the state could choose a new contractor, giving that company a year or less to build new software.

“That is quite a stretch to do,” said Greg Smith, director of the state of Nevada Purchasing Division.

He gave the board two options for bolstering the hiring process.

One provision would allow Nevada to hire a contractor to build an online health care system that’s similar to a system used by a state operating its own exchange.

Another option would allow the state to use current laws to bypass the competitive bidding process to hire a contractor, he said.

The board will make a decision at its June 18 meeting.

Nevada has one of 17 state-run exchanges and wants to remain autonomous of the federal government’s exchange. If the state wants to remain independent, it needs federal money to do so.

The state must pick a new vendor to remain eligible for federal money to rebuild its system, said Shawna DeRousse, the exchange’s chief operating officer.

“If we want to bring in a new vendor to build a new system I have to build a price so I can include it in the Nov. 14 federal grant application,” she said.

Without the money the state would be forced to remain on the federal exchange.

“If we lose the state funding option from the federal government then all the options all go away,” said Barbara Smith Campbell, exchange board chairwoman.

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