The California Health Benefit Exchange Board held it’s last meeting of 2011 today! We would be remiss to not acknowledge the tremendous amount of work that was accomplished in 2011. But of course, we’ve got ten miles behind us and ten thousand more to go.
One exciting change this meeting was that they used a conference line to allow people who watch the webinar because they are unable to attend in person to make comments as well.
The report from Executive Director Peter Lee included some modifications to the contract with IT RFP vendor ClearBest, expanding the responsibilities to include reviewing of responses to the RFP as well as project management. Lee also introduced 6 new staff members,with a number of familiar faces including David Maxwell Jolly, Chief Operations Officer, David Panush, and Gabriel Ravel. Lee acknowledged that neither the Board nor the senior staff currently appointed to the Exchange reflects the diversity of California, and that there would be 9 additional senior position descriptions to be posted tomorrow. He asked that stakeholders help spread the word and assist in the recruitment of quality applicants from diverse backgrounds. He also reported back on a number of meetings that he, the Exchange Board members, and staff from DHCS and MRMIB have conducted across the state in the last 4 weeks. They have been conducting this outreach effort to inform both the IT RFP and the coordinated outreach and marketing efforts they will undertake next. The solicitation for that will be released later in the week.
Katie Marcellus from the Exchange staff then made a brief presentation related to the Essential Health Benefits guidance that the Federal government released late last week. She described the options that the federal government is allowing states to use as benchmark plans upon which to base essential benefits and outlined some potential next steps that the Exchange should take.
The next and most highly anticipated item of discussion was the IT RFP which will be used to solicit IT vendors to create the California Healthcare Eligibility, Enrollment, and Retention System or CalHEERS. Staff provided an overview of what the RFP would contain, but the actual RFP was not released until this evening. Of importance to advocates interested in providing comments on the RFP, it can be found at the Exchange website: www.hbex.ca.gov and comments must be made through the comment matrix and submitted no later than December 30 at 5pm. The solicitation will officially be released on January 18. Director Bob Ross commented that this is beginning to feel “awfully real” with so many pieces falling into place.
The last item on the agenda was a presentation from Pacific Community Ventures about small businesses and the Exchange. The presentation centered around the results of survey and research data they collected from small business owners across the state. Their data indicates that many small business owners have little knowledge about the Exchange (or even about the small business tax credits that have been in place as a result of ACA for a year now). Given adequate information however, many said that they would likely participate, understanding the benefits of group purchasing, and of better apples-to-apples comparability. The study’s findings also indicate that reaching out to small businesses owned by ethnic minorities will be very important.
The Exchange Board will meet again in the new year on January 17, 2012. Until there, many advocates will be pouring over the RFP to make comments by the December 30th deadline. Happy Holidays!