Within the same 24 hours of the Governor’s signing of the first-in-the-nation bills to set up a new health insurance exchange, California received a $1 million grant from the federal government to start planning and set-up of this new, one-stop shop for health insurance consumers.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $1 million to California, as part of grants to help 48 states and the District of Columbia plan for the establishment of health insurance exchanges. A key part of the Affordable Care Act, starting in 2014, health insurance exchanges – new, competitive, consumer-centered private health insurance marketplaces – will put greater control and greater choice in the hands of individuals and small businesses.
Americans will have the same health care choices as members of Congress – who will also purchase coverage through the exchanges. Individuals and families purchasing health insurance through exchanges may also qualify for tax credits and reduced cost-sharing depending on their income.
According to the Health and Human Services Department website, the $1 million grant will be administered by the California Health and Human Services Agency, and will be devoted to:
* Establish an Exchange Board and recruit key staff.
* Analyze the current public and private insurance markets.
* Convene stakeholders and the general public to gather input.
* Develop a multi-year plan for Exchange planning tasks.
* Collect data on the demographics of the current and projected population, profiles of insurance markets offering coverage in California and estimates of how the Affordable Care Act will change the number of uninsured Californians.
Right now, individuals and small businesses are all alone at the mercy of the big insurers. The potential of the exchange is to level the playing field between consumers and insurers, providing easy-to-compare plans, credits and subsidies to afford coverage, and the bulk purchasing power of millions of Californians.
The signing of the bills starts this process. The grant helps fund it and get it going. Well timed!