(Editor’s Note: In an effort to keep our readers up to speed on what’s happening on the development of state-based health insurance exchanges, we are checking in periodically with states that are moving forward. This month, we visit our friends in sunny California.)
Earlier this month,
California’s Health Benefit Exchange Board (the HBEX) met for the first
time with a full complement of Board members (Dr. Robert Ross, CEO of The
California Endowment was recently appointed to fill the fifth and final seat on
the Board) . The Board approved a $40.1 million Level I Establishment Grant
application and vowed to send it off to HHS within 48 hours.
Considering that the Board only held its first meeting in
April, and originally decided to submit a Level II Grant application in
September, completion of this earlier submission was an impressive feat.
So, the planning begins…The Board’s Acting Administrator
Patricia Powers detailed the immediate next steps. The Board will undertake a “strategic visioning” process,
and next week will announce strategic work groups.. The inaugural working group
will focus on eligibility and enrollment requirements, issues and challenges.
Noting that well over half of the planning grant ($27.8 million) will be
devoted to IT, the Board Chair, Secretary Diana Dooley reminded meeting
attendees that while IT is “short hand for enrollment,” enrollment will not be
limited to online access. Providing for telephone, mail-in, and in-person
access and assistance will also be key components of the Exchange’s enrollment
and eligibility planning.
Powers announced that the grant application had been
revised somewhat to address advocate concerns that some planning areas had not
been sufficiently funded. Funding to plan for stakeholder consultation, program
integration and consumer assistance and outreach were all increased in the
final proposal. The allocation for health plan management was also increased,
at the request of Board member Susan Kennedy.
The need for the Board to “cement public awareness” was
articulated by Betsy Imholtz of Consumers Union. Powers reported that a portion
of an earlier federal grant to California’s Department of Managed Health Care
would be used to redesign the HBEX website as a critical first step to HBEX
branding. A recurring drumbeat has
been the need create a “brand” for HBEX that invites consumer participation and
engages the public. Since approximately one-third of Exchange enrollees are
expected to be families with no history of engagement in public health
programs, it is clear that new avenues for reaching Californians must be
HBEX must find ways to not only let people know they’re
here…but that access to healthcare is for everyone.
Next month we’ll report on the stakeholder and working