The California Health Benefits Exchange is Born!

The California Health Benefits Exchange Board held its first meeting today in Sacramento. The Board, staff, and nearly 100 stakeholders in the audience were well aware of the significance of the meeting, which represents the first official and concrete action toward expanding coverage and extending consumer protections to the 4 million Californians.

Common threads in the members’ opening statements included their individual commitment to the issue, the challenge the state budget could pose, recognition of the scope of the task before them, and excitement over the opportunities ahead.

Despite still being one member short, the board took some foundational action today.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley was elected Interim Chair of the Board.
  • The Board voted to apply for the Level II Federal Exchange Establishment Grant, with a goal of submitting on or before a September 30, 2011 submission date.
  • The Board created a subcommittee to work with staff on the grant application, and to appoint Kim Belshe to that subcommittee, with room for an additional appointment.
  • In closed session, the Board voted to extend a contract offer for the Interim Administrative Officer to perform administrative duties until the search for an Executive Office is complete, to Pat Powers. They also approved a resolution delegating responsibilities to the Interim Administrative Officer, including working with stakeholders.
  • The Board created a Search and Recruitment subcommittee and appointed Paul Fearer and Diana Dooley to it.
  • They also adopted a meeting schedule for the rest of the year.
In addition, there were a number of discussion items that did not result in board action including:
  • A rudimentary timeline for getting to 2014:
September 30, 2011 – State Submission of Exchange Establishment Grant
January 2013 – Federal Government Certification of state Exchanges
June 2013 – Exchange IT systems testing
Mid-Late 2013 – Open Enrollment Begins
January 2014 – Exchange Opens for Business
January 2014 – Exchange must be self-sustaining
  • A presentation on rules governing public meetings, Robert’s Rules and Bagley/Keene
  • Review of the responsibilities and duties of the Exchange and it’s board members, notably that they are to “serve the public interest of those seeking coverage in the Exchange” and that they are to work toward the goals of choice, value, quality, and service.
  • Review of a proposed discussion schedule for topics to be covered in the meetings leading up to the federal grant application deadline. This will be a useful tool for those following the Exchange once it is finalized.
  • Possible topics for future meetings.
Consumer advocates took the opportunity to weigh in as well, reminding Board members of the importance of including stakeholders in the implementation process. Particularly, Beth Capell of Health Access asked that stakeholders be consulted in pertinent subcommittee meetings where Bagley/Keene rules do not require this. The Board members agreed to include, within the responsibilities of both the Interim Administrative Officer and the Executive Officer, the responsibility of actively engaging with stakeholders. Several board members expressed their support and commitment to ensuring stakeholder involvement in the process.

The meeting ended 2 hours early, but with the enormity of the task ahead, Board Chair Diana Dooley warned attendees that this was not likely to happen again.

For more blow-by-blow from the meeting, we live-tweeted the proceedings at @healthaccess (www.twitter.com/healthaccess), using the hashtag #CaHEx–which others used as well.

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