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November 24, 2014

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Health exchange delays picking new director

After interviewing and deliberating for more than three hours at its Wednesday meeting, the Silver State Exchange Board delayed choosing the health care exchange’s next executive director.

The board was set to make a decision after interviewing three candidates but decided to hold off on the decision until next Friday.

The board’s only action was knocking one name, James C. Hooban, off the short list.

The board’s decision leaves in the running David Haws, the current division administrator of the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, and Bruce Gilbert, principal of Texas-based HIX Partners.

Haws interviewed in person and Gilbert interviewed via Skype from Texas.

The board said it wanted to interview both candidates in-person before making a final decision.

Haws is a known IT whiz among the state ranks who described himself as a behind-the-scenes problem solver.

“I am a little bit introverted,” he said. “I am not the flashy person who’s going to be able to give you all the right answers.”

Gilbert, who is a former benefits administrator in Ohio, is known for his personnel management skills.

“I am not an IT guy,” he said.

Gilbert is currently involved in a lawsuit over $14,896 with American Express Centurion Bank in Dallas County District Court. He disclosed the lawsuit to the exchange board prior to the interview.

For a board that has overseen an exchange plagued by technical glitches and management problems, the decision is not an easy one. Members of the board said their dream candidate would be a morphed version of Haws and Gilbert.

“It’s a complicated position that demands a lot of skill sets,” said Barbara Campbell Smith, board chairwoman. “At the end of the day no one person can bring everything to the table that’s required to the job.”

Whatever candidate wins will have a difficult task ahead.

The exchange launched Oct. 1. and has been a disaster since. Only 36,000 Nevadans have enrolled. The original projection was 118,000 people. Some consumers have paid for insurance premiums and not received plans, been forced to enroll up to 10 times for a plan and have been kicked off the website or left on hold for hours waiting for customer service representatives.

The board’s need to hire a new director follows the February departure of the predecessor, John Hager. He resigned after the exchange’ s Oct. 1 rollout escalated into a catastrophe.

The board chose Steve Fisher, former deputy administrator at the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, as the interim director.

The heart of the exchange’s problems lie within the exchange’s website, Nevada Health Link. Tech contractor Xerox built the software operating the site. The board fired Xerox in May.

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