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Appointments to California Health Benefit Exchange Announced

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Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced the appointments of Kimberly Belshé and Susan Kennedy to the California Health Benefit Exchange.

"We are once again taking first-in-the-nation action with the California Health Benefit Exchange," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "Both Kim and Susan are tremendous leaders that know how to get things done. With their deep understanding of health care, public policy and hands-on attitude, I know they will help build an exchange that will create a competitive marketplace, improve quality of care and reduce health care costs for California consumers."

Belshé has a distinguished background in the health care field with nearly 20 years of experience in related policy fields. Most recently, she has served as the secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency since she was first appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2003. In this capacity, Belshé has advised the Governor on all health, social services and rehabilitative policies, and serves as chair of the Governor's Task Force on Health Care Reform Implementation.

Prior to joining the Schwarzenegger Administration, she served in a number of leadership positions in state government under the administration of Governor Pete Wilson, including deputy secretary of the then-Health and Welfare Agency from 1991 to 1993 and director of the then-Department of Health Services from 1993 to 1999. After over a decade of public service in federal and state government, she served as the program director for The James Irvine Foundation from 1999 to 2003, a multipurpose foundation dedicated to expanding opportunities for the people of California.

Throughout her career, Belshé has served in a number of civic capacities. She is a board member of the Great Valley Center, which is dedicated to promoting the sustainability of California's Central Valley region, and a founding commissioner of the California Children and Families Commission. Additionally, she served as an executive committee member for the National Academy for State Health Policy, an organization dedicated to assisting states with solutions to complex health policy issues.

Belshé, 51, of Sacramento, earned a Masters degree in public and international affairs from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Harvard. Belshé is a Republican.

"The Exchange will improve the way millions of Californians get health insurance in our state," said Belshé. "I am honored to have this opportunity and I look forward to using my knowledge in health care policy to help shape the Exchange and focus competition on price, quality and service."

Kennedy has served as chief of staff to Governor Schwarzenegger since 2006. In this role, she has served as the Governor's chief advisor on all policy matters including the implementation of health care reform in California.

Previously, Kennedy served on the California Public Utilities Commission from 2003 to 2005, where she focused on regulatory consistency and broadband, infrastructure investment and promoting economic development. In addition, she served as a member of the California Bay-Delta Authority from 2003 to 2006, the statewide body responsible for overseeing the restoration of the San Francisco Bay Delta.

Kennedy served as cabinet secretary and deputy chief of staff for Governor Gray Davis from 1999 to 2003, where she was principal liaison to the cabinet and state agencies, departments, boards and commissions. Prior to joining the Davis Administration, Kennedy served as communications director for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein from 1995 to 1998.

Kennedy, 50, of Marin County, graduated with a degree in management from Saint Mary's College and attended San Francisco State University. Kennedy is a Democrat.

"I am honored Governor Schwarzenegger has given me the opportunity to reform our health care system in California," said Kennedy. "If we can do it in California, it can be done around the country. I look forward to developing a competitive health exchange that will give individuals and small businesses more affordable health care options."

The positions do not require Senate confirmation and there is no salary. Both appointments are effective January 1, 2011.

Earlier this year, Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 1602 and SB 900 making California the first state-in-the-nation to enact legislation creating a health benefit exchange under federal health care reform. The California Health Benefit Exchange is an entity that will help California consumers and small businesses shop for and buy affordable health insurance starting in 2014. The Exchange will be governed by a five-member board appointed by the Governor and the legislature. Between now and the end of 2013, the Exchange board and staff will develop procedures and criteria to enroll Californians in the Exchange and select qualified health plans to participate. Similar to the purchasing pool proposed as part of comprehensive health reform advanced by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2007, the Exchange will enhance competition and give individuals and employees of small businesses the same advantages available to large employer groups including a more stable risk pool, greater purchasing power, more competition among insurers and detailed information regarding the price, quality and service of health coverage. Click here to read more on the California Health Benefit Exchange.

The Governor and his Administration have been working since federal health care reform passed to implement key elements in California before the 2014 start date. In April, the Governor announced the state will contract with the federal government to operate a temporary health insurance program for medically uninsured individuals with preexisting medical conditions. In July, the Governor's Administration submitted the state's proposal to the federal government to establish and operate the federal Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan through a public-private partnership with contracted vendors and overseen by the California Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board. To implement this program and expand affordable health coverage to uninsured Californians with pre-existing medical conditions, the Governor also signed legislation creating the Federal Temporary High Risk Health Insurance Fund to receive $761 million in federal funding.

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