Apparently, 2014 Isn’t Tomorrow After All…

The California Health Benefit Exchange Board held it’s July meeting today in Sacramento. Dr. Bob Ross was absent from the meeting, but the other 4 members were present. As always, we tweeted the proceedings at www.twitter.com/healthaccess, using the hashtag #CaHBEx.

The Subcommittee on hiring gave an update on the progress of their work since the last meeting. They have narrowed a large pool of candidates to half a dozen that the subcommittee will interview, and the subcommittee will then recommend one or two candidates for the full board to interview in August. The board plans to announce the new Executive Director in August or early September.

The Board then engaged in a thorough discussion on strategic visioning, the first of 3 that are intended to shape the Exchange’s vision (long term impact) and mission (purpose of the business) statement. Today’s discussion pitted 4 potential models against one another, with presenters “advocating” extreme visions of the Exchange that emphasize being a Price Leader, a High-Quality Customer Service Center, a Systems Change Agent, and a Partner with Public Programs. There was also a discussion on the overall vision for the Exchange, and guiding principles and values. They are inviting further public feedback on these broad questions, through Tuesday, at info@hbex.ca.gov.

The Board then discussed bills moving forward in the state that will impact the Exchange. Diana Dooley stated that she would not vote to take any position on legislation because in her role as Secretary of Health and Human Services, it was best that she not take positions on any legislation that the Administration had not yet taken positions on.

Dooley abstained from acting on any bills, but that didn’t stop the other board members. The 3 voting members of the board voted to direct staff to take positions on the bills–in some cases to work on amendments, in other cases to work to delay the bills, and make them 2 year bills so the Exchange would have more time to consider them. Exchange staff had indicated they wanted more time to consider these bills, but advocates argued that waiting a year (until passage in 2012) would mean the bills don’t go into effect until 2013, when there will be scant time to implement them–especially with a bill like AB714(Atkins), which seeks to identify and pre-enroll millions of Californians so they are ready to get coverage on day one, Janaury 1, 2014.

In the case of SB703 (Hernandez) to create a Basic Health Plan, the Board opposed the bill unless amended to a 2-year bill. John Ramey, the sponsor of SB703 representing local health plans characterized the interaction between the board and advocates when he said “I don’t need a hat, I need a helmet!” as he stepped up to testify.

It is unclear the impact that the Exchange Board’s action will have in the legislative process. These bills have already been approved by at least 3 policy committees and been passed by one house. And some of the legislators who have authored these proposals feel the urgency to move forward with California’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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