Nevada's Public Employee Benefits Program Board voted 9-1, Friday, to suspend their pilot healthcare program they previously approved, twice. 

Damon Haycock, Executive Officer for P.E.B.P says, "It was a difficult recommendation to make." Currently, Renown is the only healthcare provider for P.E.B.P employees.

The pilot program would have given them more options, with the ability to choose from St. Mary's, Carson-Tahoe or Renown. The pilot's main goal was cost control, since Hometown Health, the insurance arm of Renown, could raise rates at any time under current provisions.

John Griffin, Attorney for St. Mary's says he was disappointed with the decision, "[The pilot program] had good contract terms, it had beneficial prices with a really good hospital and Renown and Hometown Health came back at the 11th hour and tried to hold the board hostage."

Last month, Renown announced if the pilot program is implemented, this would violate and end the exclusive contract the provider currently has with the state. This would mean increased rates, Ty Winfeldt, CEO of Hometown Health and Senior Vice President for Renown Health said, "We are unable to offer those rates, because they are only offered to Hometown Health from Renown on an exclusive basis." 

Haycock added, "They would not feel comfortable within their current contract structure to have absorbed this new plan we were taking on." The board also feared losing that healthcare access so close to open enrollment. Haycock says, "Had they issued us a termination letter, we'd have no network for tens of thousands of people on our standard PPO plan." 

However, there were dozens of pilot supporters at the meeting, who say the competition would have improved health care, overall. Heather Schofield, Director of Nursing Operations at St. Mary's says, "The two organizations are going to push each other to be better--better quality, better cost."

In P.E.B.P negotiations with renown, they did reach a compromise. Renown will charge flat rates until the end of 2019 and then implement rate increase caps at 2% a year, through 2021.  In return for that rate cap, Renown required the pilot be suspended. 

While the board was hesitant to make the decision on Friday--ensuring the healthcare of tens of thousands of Nevadans just before open enrollment, was their top priority. 

However, Haycock says, they will continue working toward more healthcare choices for P.E.B.P employees in the future.  He said, "It doesn't mean that a 'no' today is a 'no' forever."

While a Renown representative was not available for an interview Friday, Windfeldt emailed a statement to us about the decision:

Statement from Ty Windfeldt, CEO Hometown Health and Senior Vice President Renown Health

Hometown Health, along with network provider Renown Health, remains committed to a successful partnership with PEBP and the members it serves. We participated in a competitive and public process, and the State selected our proposal based on an exclusive contract. This contract provides the broadest provider network access for State employees and their families across all 14 northern Nevada counties while saving PEBP millions of dollars per year. Today’s decision affirms that contracts will be honored and held to a transparent process and will allow PEBP members uninterrupted access to the region’s most comprehensive healthcare network.