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Nevada could pay $625,000 to implement Obama health care reform law


By Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau: Nevadans could pay up to $625,684 to consultants who are helping the state implement the controversial federal health care reform law under a state contract.

The contract with Massachusetts-based Public Consulting Group allows up to that level of spending through June 30, 2012.

Officials at the state’s Department of Health and Human Services hired the consultants for their expertise in health care reform. The state has already paid $132,121 to the consultants, according to Lynn Carrigan, the chief fiscal officer with the department’s Division of Health Care Financing and Policy.

The contract and subsequent expansions of it were approved during meetings last year, when Jim Gibbons, who had also called the law unconstitutional, was still governor.

Nobody can yet say whether that’s money well spent or wasted. Several challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are winding their way through the court system, and many predict the case will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has called the law “unconstitutional,” but he’s also acknowledged that the state will continue to implement the law that’s on the books.

The law mandates that the states have health insurance exchanges up and running by 2014. The exchanges are marketplaces like Travelocity and Expedia through which people could purchase the best insurance plan for them.

To be on target for implementation, the state Legislature should pass a bill this session that sets up the skeleton structure of the exchange. Should they not, the federal government might intervene and create that structure for Nevada.

States legislatures across America are also taking up the issue.

Republican governors unhappy with law’s mandates

Sandoval has also signed a letter submitted yesterday by several Republican governors to  Kathleen Sebelius, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The letter asks Sebelius to make changes to the law’s mandate to establish state health insurance exchanges. Otherwise, the governors write, they may opt out of running their own exchanges and let the federal government intercede.

“While we hope for your endorsement, if you do not agree, we will move forward with our own efforts regardless and HHS should begin making plans to run exchanges under its own auspices,” they wrote.

The statement seems to run counter to what Sandoval said in his State of the State address several weeks ago.

“We must also plan for a Health Insurance Exchange so that we – and not the federal government – control the program,” he said during the speech in which he also called the federal law “unconstitutional.”

Sandoval said today, however, that he signed on to the letter primarily to put pressure on the federal government to make a decision regarding the validity of the law.

“It encourages the expedited review of the court case because in the meantime our state is having to expend funds to meet the requirements of the federal law,” he said of the letter.

The state is a party to the lawsuit challenging the constitutional standing of the health care law,  but governor said Nevada will continue crafting its health insurance exchange.

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