State’s health-plan marketplace selects new executive director

The state’s health-plan marketplace has a new executive director.

The board of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange voted unanimously Thursday to hire Bruce Gilbert for the agency’s top job.

Gilbert will make $117,000 a year in the position.

A second candidate the board was considering, David Haws of the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, withdrew his application for the job.

Gilbert, one of about 50 applicants for the executive director’s job, is a principal in Addison, Texas-based HIX Partners, described on its website as a business that helps insurance brokers and professional and nonprofit associations build benefit plans and delivery platforms, such as private insurance exchanges.

Gilbert was previously a criminal defense attorney in Maryland. His bio also lists experience including managing regional operations for a Fortune 100 health care company, and serving as benefits administrator for Ohio, where he managed the state’s five self-funded health plans.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College and a law degree from Duquesne University School of Law, both in Pennsylvania.

He told the board in Thursday’s meeting that his top priority in his new position would be to help consumers.

“The fact of the matter is, if you’re involved in the health insurance market and health care generally, this is a very exciting time,” Gilbert said. “It’s an earthshaking time. Things are changing radically and dramatically. To be inside that circle of change, to really be able to affect the lives of people and their ability to secure affordable insurance — that’s a tremendous legacy. I’ve come to the point in my career where I would love to have a legacy.”

Gilbert also said he couldn’t guarantee success, but that he would work hard to help the exchange fulfill its potential.

“It has all sorts of promise. There is the opportunity to really make a difference, to really fundamentally change the way health insurance is purchased in the state of Nevada. It’s going to remake the markets no matter how you look at it. I wish I could tell you we had a magic formula, but I don’t. The only thing I can do is identify issues, understand the process, work to get my arms around things, make sure the issues are dealt with, and do the best I can. I’m here because I think I can do it. I’ve had success in similar situations. I am really persistent, but you know what? I get stuff done.”

Gilbert’s ascent to the job wasn’t hiccup-free.

The Review-Journal in June turned up details on his involvement in a delinquent-debts lawsuit in Texas.

American Express Centurion Bank sued Gilbert in Dallas County District Court in 2013 for $14,896. American Express alleges that Gilbert did not pay back a line of credit to buy “goods, wares, merchandise, services and/or cash advances,” according to the lawsuit.

A non-jury trial was set for July 8, but the case was closed on June 27 after a judge ruled that American Express recover the full amount of the debt, plus court costs.

Gilbert was open about the lawsuit, disclosing it to state hiring officials and to the exchange board before he interviewed, and before the Review-Journal published the information.

Lee-Ann Easton, human resources director for the state, said in June that the case was a “personal situation he’s dealing with.”

Gilbert called the lawsuit a “disagreement” that “escalated.”

Gilbert is the permanent replacement for former exchange director Jon Hager, who stepped down March 13 amid technical glitches and low enrollment numbers through the exchange’s Nevada Health Link website.

Steve Fisher, deputy director of the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, had been serving as interim director.

In other meeting news, exchange staffers said a fifth carrier would be selling plans through Nevada Health Link in 2015. Time Insurance Co. will join Nevada Health CO-OP, Anthem, UnitedHealthcare and St. Mary’s in offering coverage through the marketplace.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.

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