Exchange Board Approves Grant Application

The fifth meeting of the Exchange Board today welcomed the fifth and final appointee to the Board, Dr. Bob Ross, though the Board was still not quite whole, with Susan Kennedy absent for the day.

The meeting began with a report from Acting Administrative Officer Pat Powers. Ms. Powers touched on a number of important subjects:

1. Misleading Websites. There is a private company that has set up a website with the address cahealthbenefitsexchange.com. This is NOT the Exchange’s official website, it is a commercial website that is very easily confused with the real Exchange website as it mimics some of the official website’s design elements, colors, etc. Ms. Powers reported that this has already caused confusion among consumers, and that this matter has been referred to the Attorney General’s Office for follow up. Beth Abbott of Health Access testified that there are other sites recently created by brokers and other commercial interests that have adopted similar names to the Exchange. Ms. Abbott encouraged the Board to ramp up branding and PR efforts to get the real Exchange out there, and to work on search engine optimization. The real Exchange website can be found at www.healthexchange.ca.gov or at www.HBEX.ca.gov.

2. Ms. Powers again invited stakeholders to submit leads for appropriate candidates for the Executive Director position. The recruitment brochure can be found here, and leads can be submitted to Pam Derby at CPS Executive Search, resumes@cps.ca.gov.

3. Staff is working on a conflict of interest code for the Board which will be brought forward in the July or August meetings.

4. Last but not least, as the Board wraps up the grant application process, their next focus will be on strategic visioning for the Exchange, particularly around the customer service experience. This process will engage stakeholders and span the 4 months from July through October. Stakeholder meeting dates will be announced next week.

But the main event for this meeting was the proposed grant application put together by the grant subcommittee of one (Board Member Kim Belshe) and the staff. The full proposal incorporated some of the comments that consumer advocates made at the last meeting in addition to those made through letters submitted the the Board. Advocates acknowledged the greater emphasis (and pushed for more) to be placed on consumer assistance, stakeholder engagement, and all four pathways to eligibility and enrollment (online, mail, phone, in-person) as opposed to a singular focus on IT systems, as well as for dedicated resources to linguistic and cultural access. In addition, the Board added language committing to accessibility for people with disabilities.

Several Board members spoke up in agreement with advocates’ comments related to the importance of cultivating the multiple pathways to eligibility and enrollment.

Dr. Ross commented on the importance of stakeholder engagement and on consumer assistance. He expressed appreciation for advocates such as Health Access, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Consumers Union, NHELP, SEIU and a number of our coalition partners for our letters and input into the proposal.

Generally advocates appreciated the tremendous job that the staff and Board member did on this very heavy lift and appreciated the Board’s openness to accepting suggestions from stakeholders. Some lingering concern remains around whether the proposed timeline, which doesn’t address policies around eligibility and enrollment until late in the year, allows enough time for legislative action. If legislation is not acted upon until 2012, it will not take effect until 2013, which may not leave adequate time for Exchange planning.

The board approved the grant proposal on a vote of 4-0 and it will be submitted tomorrow or the day after. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Exchange board is calendared for July 22, 2011.

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