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Covered California News & Commentary

Topics of interest to both consumers and agents related to Covered California and the ACA biased in favor of the successful implementation of the Exchange and deliberately apolitical.

September 2010 Archives

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed two key health bills that make California the first in the nation to begin establishing its own health insurance exchange - a key component of the federal health overhaul law intended to widen access to health coverage among the country's millions of uninsured.

"For national reform to succeed, it will be up to the states to make it work, and California is moving forward on reforms that will provide affordable and quality health care insurance," the governor said in a statement.

The bills, Senate Bill 900 and Assembly Bill 1602, would establish the California Health Benefit Exchange and an independent, five-member oversight board that will be tasked with defining how the exchange would operate, in time for the federal deadline of January 2014.

At least 2 million Californians could be eligible to immediately buy insurance from the exchange once it is open for business. The exchange would help funnel billions of dollars in subsidies to help Californians and small businesses obtain health coverage.
The governor's office is expected to hold a signing ceremony in Los Angeles on Friday.

The governor was under pressure by some large insurers and business chambers to veto the bills. The California Chamber of Commerce expressed particular worry about the oversight board, saying that the board would be making key decisions without any accountability to elected officials.

Consumer health care advocates, however, applauded the governor. "We're relieved that we're taking this important next step in improving health care in California," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California.

Sacramento Bee
By Bobby Caina Calvan
Published: Thursday, Sep. 30, 2010 - 5:58 pm

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/30/3070403/schwarzenegger-signs-landmark.html#ixzz11dVh0sgR

Among the more significant bills on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk are two that would create a health insurance exchange to implement federal health care reform in California in 2014. The exchange will function as a marketplace for small businesses and low- and middle-income Californians who qualify for subsidized health insurance and tax credits.

Opponents of health reform are mounting a last-ditch effort to dissuade the governor from signing the bills. A recent column in The Bee by Dan Walters draws heavily from a memo by a paid consultant to the California Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the bills. Regrettably, the column and the memo make several misinformed claims, including that the legislation would:

  • "Shift control of the largest single element of the California economy - health care - to a five-member board." The exchange board serves as a portal for low-income Californians and small businesses to obtain federally subsidized coverage if they want it. The exchange board will affect few people with health coverage today unless they qualify for subsidies. It won't control anyone's health care.

  • "Assume management of the state's current multibillion-dollar health program for the poor, Medi-Cal." Under the two bills, Medi-Cal is run by the same state department as it is today. The role of the exchange is to screen and enroll applicants that aren't eligible for the exchange in other programs.

  • "Expand coverage way beyond the federal government's minimum requirements." The legislation says the board must "determine when an enrollee's coverage commences, and the extent and scope of coverage." This means that the board will determine if applicants are eligible for state programs based on eligibility rules, and if they are eligible for the "catastrophic coverage" option, available to those under 30. Both of these responsibilities are required under the new federal law. The exchange cannot "unilaterally expand" benefits, or rack up billions in state costs.

As the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office concluded, "The Legislature would retain full authority to set eligibility and benefit levels for state programs as well as benefit requirements of plans." This conclusion makes sense, because the legislation explicitly prohibits the board from imposing new state costs without the governor's and Legislature's approval.

Three years ago, the governor and then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez helped jump-start the national dialogue over health care reform. It is fitting that the governor can sign these measures now. Despite 11th-hour claims to the contrary, these bills do only what their proponents say they will do: implement health care reform in California.

By David Lansky and Scott Hauge
Special to The Bee
Published: Sunday, Sep. 26, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 3E

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/26/3055077/health-care-exchange-wont-usurp.html#ixzz11ddtW28l

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