The Exchange Board met today and tested out a new meeting schedule.  Chair Diana Dooley explained that the Board wanted to get stakeholder feedback before the Closed Session discussion of the federal partnership opportunity and the CalHEERS IT contract. 
Peter Lee gave a brief Executive Director’s report, primarily highlighting the schedule for the next few very busy weeks.  Tomorrow morning, the Exchange will be hosting a Marketing, Outreach, & Education and Assisters Program Stakeholder Webinar.  Next week’s board meeting (that’s right, there is another board meeting next week, May 22 at 10am) will include discussion of the following broad issues:

         The Level II Exchange Grant

         Outreach and Marketing

         Assisters, Navigators, Brokers, and Consumer Assistance
         SHOP Options
The Service Center options discussion will be moved back to the June 12th meeting.
Lee then introduced Amanda Cowley from CCIIO, the federal Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, who shared some information about the Federal Exchanges and Federal Partnership Options.  Some states have never intended to create their own Exchange for various reasons, while other states may find themselves unsure of whether they will be operational by the designated start date and may want to partner with the federal government on a transitional or permanent basis on all or parts of the Exchange operations.
The Exchange Board brought up this possibility in the last meeting and both the Board and stakeholders had a number of questions for Ms. Cowley about how exactly a partnership might work.  While she did not have the answers to all of the questions, she did say that CCIIO was open to states helping to shape the specifics of the partnership model.  In asking about the timing of opting into a partnership, Dr. Ross, in asking about the timing for when the state would have to opt in, delivered the laugh line of the day:  “Is there a point where we send you an OMG text,” he asked, “when your answer will be LOL?”  He seemed to be reflecting some anxiety, shared by the rest of the board, about being ready, particularly on the technology front, in time.
Advocates expressed concern about what the federal partnership might mean for California.  Health Access’ Beth Capell, Elizabeth Landsberg from Western Center on Law and Poverty, and Betsy Imholz of Consumers Union were among advocates who testified on behalf of the interest of consumers.  Relinquishing control of vital components of the Exchange to the federal government might mean a bigger challenge ensuring a “no wrong door” and seamless experience for consumers. (Board member Kim Belshe asked questions around this issue.) This may also make it more difficult to ensure realtime eligibility determinations and horizontal integration with screening for human services programs.  Consumer assistance being provided by the federal government may also mean call centers where individuals have less of an understanding of the unique needs of Californians, and may not have the language access capacity that California needs and requires. 
After hearing this consumer feedback, the Board adjourned to a long closed session, which was extended multiple times, in order to discuss the progress of the CalHEERS IT contract as well as whether the possibility of adjusting that contract as part of partnering with the federal government.
When the Board finally reconvened in open session, Executive Director Peter Lee reported that the Board agreed, based on the status of the contract negotiations in progress that they felt comfortable moving forward as a state-based exchange and not opting in to a federal partnership.  The final result of the contract negotiations will be announced at next week’s board meeting.

So, CTO, IMHO CA HBEX DTRT @EOD. (For those of you who don’t speak text: check this out, in my humble opinion the California Health Benefits Exchange did the right thing at the end of the day).

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