Fresno Warmly Welcomes the Exchange Board…

The Exchange Board made the first stop on its road show today, holding its board meeting in Fresno. Board Chair Diana Dooley, who hails from the region, acknowledged the great health care needs of the Central Valley and the importance of hearing stakeholder input that reflect the geographical diversity of the state.

Before the Board meeting began, Health Access and many of our coalition partners held a press conference outside the FresnoConvention Center to mark the upcoming second “birthday” of health reform, and the importance of the Exchange to the implementation of reform and to the people of the Central Valley.

At the beginning of the meeting, Executive Director Peter Lee gave a brief overview of the mission and vision of the Exchange as well as its current workplan for the next several months, in order to help those who have not been able to attend regularly. Acknowledgements of the importance of geography were abundant but brief, and the board launched promptly into the day’s packed agenda.

Executive Director Peter Lee gave a brief report including an update on administrative matters:

  • The Exchange is still recruiting for several leadership roles and is seeking assistance from the community to find leaders that represent the diversity of California;
  • The Exchange has awarded a number of contracts for Communications and Outreach and Qualified Health Plans;
  • Stakeholder comments are still being sought through a questionnaire that is posted on the Exchange website;
  • An overview of the recently issued regulations from the federal government that will impact Exchange planning.
  • Due to the crucial decisions that the Board will need to make moving forward, the Board has scheduled an extra meeting in June, tentatively on June 12th.

The Board then launched into another set of panel discussions delving this month into issues related to communications, outreach, and enrollment.

The first panel focused on Communication, Outreach, and Enrollment. In order to set the context for the day’s discussion, Ken Jacobs of the UC Berkeley Labor Center presented some projections of what the Exchange population will look like, as well as what the population left uncovered after 2014 would look like. Exchange Staff, presented some of the aggregated comments from staff’s small group discussions about outreach that were held throughout the state. Ogilvy, the public relations firm that was recently awarded the contract for outreach and marketing planning, gave an overview of their initial efforts. The second panel focused more narrowly on branding and marketing, and experts from the insurance industry and from the Massachusetts Connector.

Board discussion and stakeholder comments were robust. Key themes that were discussed included cultural and linguistic competency (for Spanish speakers and beyond) to ensure that marketing and messaging can be appropriately targeted. Many speakers testified about the importance of partnering with trusted community based organizations that already have relationships with hard to reach communities and the skills to appropriately communicate with them. A nuanced point of tension emerged between board members over “reaching for the stars” versus setting more measured goals. Stakeholders applauded Dr. Bob Ross’ suggestions for raising the expectations, citing the state’s many difficult to reach populations as a driver for timely, comprehensive, and multi-faceted outreach efforts through innovative and diverse strategies.

The third panel focused on Assister and Navigator programs for those who need additional assistance to apply for coverage. Though the representative from the broker community attempted to argue that his colleagues were most qualified to provide assistance, spokespersons for CAAs, county eligibility workers, promotores, and legal services advocates demonstrated the importance of their crucial work to link Californians to coverage and services. Stakeholders encouraged the Board to consider existing systems that have demonstrated success in helping consumers.

The rich discussion meant the meeting went more than an hour longer than the scheduled time, demonstrating that process of creating California’s Exchange is, in the words of Diana Dooley, “both a marathon and a sprint”.

Today’s meeting featured simultaneous oral interpretation in Spanish and Hmong, it is the hope of consumer advocates that the Exchange Board continues to encourage a diversity of stakeholder input as it did today.

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