Obamacare will survive, official says

The regional director for the federal Health and Human Services Department said Thursday that he is assuming that the new federal health care law will survive the Supreme Court test.

"We are very confident the law will be upheld," Herb Schultz said of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He made the comment in a briefing held for Nevada lawmakers and agency officials.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, asked what the agency's contingency plan is if the high court strikes down either the mandate to purchase health insurance or the entire law.

"There is no contingency plan," said Schultz. "We are spending all our time moving ahead."

When Kieckhefer followed with a question about what happens to the federal funding if the law is struck down, Schultz simply repeated that federal officials "are very confident the law is going to be upheld."

"We are deep into the implementation of the law," he said. "There is no contingency planning. We are spending all our time moving ahead."

The U.S. Supreme Court held extensive hearings into the challenge by a number of states, including Nevada, that the individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance is unprecedented and unconstitutional. The court has not yet ruled.

Schultz said Nevada is doing very well in moving forward to create the Silver State Health Exchange, which would help people find health insurance, qualify for subsidies if their income is low or apply for Medicaid if they qualify.

Nevada Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden and Exchange Director Jon Hager said there is still a long way to go before the Silver State Health Exchange goes on line Jan. 1, 2014.

They assured Kieckhefer and Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-Las Vegas, that insurance brokers and providers are at the table and working out details of how the exchange will work.

Willden said that there is a lot of work under way in the private sector but that the main challenge right now is developing a "governance structure" - the rules to ensure that all electronic systems storing and transferring patient data work together and talk to one another.

Eligibility, Willden said, will be handled through a federal "hub" that will check a variety of federal agency records to determine who qualifies for what. That includes checks of IRS records, Treasury records, Social Security and Homeland Security, among others.

Schultz and his staff promised regular updates to keep Nevada officials and lawmakers up on any developments in the exchange program.


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