Belshe and Kennedy appointed to Exchange…

Governor Schwarzenegger has announced his intention to appoint two top aides to sit on the 5-member board of the new California health insurance exchange: Susan Kennedy, his chief of staff, and Kim Belshe, his secretary of health and human services for the entirety of his term.

California was the first state in the nation to take this central step of implementing the new federal health reform law by passing legislation, AB 1602 (Perez) and SB 900 (Alquist/Steinberg), to establish a new health insurance Exchange.

In 2014, the new Exchange will be the new one-stop shop for getting health coverage for individuals and small businesses, both providing easy-to-compare choices, access to federally-funded subsidies to make coverage affordable, and the bulk purchasing power (similar to large employers or CALPERS) of millions of Californians to bargain for the best price and value.

Governor Schwarzenegger got the opportunity to appoint the first two slots, of which all five are for staggered terms. Two other slots will be nominated by the Assembly and Senate leadership, respectively. A fifth slot will be filled by Governor Brown’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Diana Dooley. The appointments are subject to important conflict-of-interest requirements that they do not represent health insurers or the industry, so the Exchange can freely negotiate on behalf of consumers and purchasers of coverage.

With these first appointments, California can begin its’ important work to make getting health coverage easier and more affordable. By setting up a new exchange, California consumers will have a one-stop shop for consumers to easily compare plans and purchase health coverage, and get subsidies to ensure affordability.

An estimated 3-4 million or more Californians who will be eligible to participate in the exchange starting 2014 (and more in future years as larger employers are allowed to join in). The bills allow millions of Californians to pool together to bargain for the best price and value with the insurance industry, as opposed to the current individuals market where consumers and small businesses are left all alone at the mercy of the big insurers.

As we indicated in Anthony York’s LA Times post, Governor Schwarzenegger made such high-powered appointments because he knows the Exchange is a big deal, with the potential to have a positive impact on millions of Californians. The board has a lot of work to do to get this new purchasing pool up and running by 2014. The new board will determine criteria by which the exchange negotiates with insurers, and will help organize the marketplace so consumers can make meaningful comparisons and choices. This new board will work to set up seamless eligibility and enrollment systems, both to get health coverage and to get the new federal subsidies that will be available for individuals, families, and small businesses. These new appointees should move quickly so that Californians will be positioned to be ready on day one to take advantage of billions of dollars in new tax credits and subsidies to help families and small businesses afford coverage.

We look forward to the new appointments by the Senate and Assembly to round out the team and begin this important work.

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

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