CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The federal government Thursday gave Nevada initial approval to run its own health insurance exchange program as called for under the federal health care reform law.
The announcement by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius means the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange is on track to begin taking enrollments in October.
"I applaud Nevada's work to build a new health insurance marketplace," Sebelius said in a statement, adding the state has made "significant progress" in its efforts.
Under the federal health care law, states were required to set up insurance exchange programs to help people find coverage or the federal government would do it for them. The goal is to make it easier for individuals and small businesses to navigate the often confusing maze of health care and insurance coverage to help them find affordable plans.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval proposed and state lawmakers approved setting up the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange during the 2011 legislative session.
Sandoval opposed the health care law and Nevada was one of more than two dozen states that challenged it in court.
But even while the law's fate was uncertain, Sandoval pressed ahead with preparing to set up the exchange, saying it was better to have the state in charge rather than cede control to the federal government.
On Thursday he commended state exchange officials "for their hard work in receiving his proposal."
Nevada was one of four states with Republican governors to receive approval Thursday. The others were Idaho, New Mexico and Utah. To date, 17 states plus Washington, D.C. have been cleared to run their own insurance exchanges. Two other states formed partnerships.