California's Health Exchange Granted Conditional Approval

TOPIC ALERT:

On Thursday, the Obama administration granted conditional approval to California's plan to build and operate a statewide health insurance exchange, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Yamamura, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 1/3).

The administration also granted conditional approval to similar plans in six other states, including:

  • Hawaii;
  • Idaho;
  • Nevada;
  • New Mexico;
  • Vermont; and
  • Utah.

In addition, Arkansas received conditional approval to operate a state partnership exchange (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/3).

About California's Exchange

The federal health reform law requires states to launch online insurance marketplaces by 2014. California's exchange -- named Covered California -- primarily will serve individuals and small businesses.

Supporters hope that the exchange will function similar to websites like Amazon and Expedia so that users will be able to choose between various health plans through an easily navigable online store.

The exchange is expected to open for registration in October 2013.

Officials estimate that between 150,000 and 430,000 individuals will have enrolled by Jan. 1, 2014. They expect that about 4.4 million Californians will be using the exchange by the end of 2016 (California Healthline, 11/19/12).

Details of the Approval

In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown (D), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote that she was granting conditional approval to California's exchange because of the "substantial progress" made in preparing for its implementation.

The approval is conditional upon California demonstrating that it can meet exchange requirements and comply with deadlines and regulations (Lin, AP/U-T San Diego, 1/3).

Sebelius added, "We recognize that California is working under intense timelines, and (we) will work with you to establish benchmark dates that are appropriate and will allow us to jointly monitor California's progress" (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 1/3).

Comments From Exchange Official

In response to the approval, Peter Lee -- executive director of the exchange board -- said, "Rightly, the federal government is saying, 'You've got all your ducks in a row. You're ready to go, and we want to make sure you're going to be ready on Oct. 1.'"

He said the exchange now will negotiate contracts with health plans and move forward with outreach and marketing efforts (AP/U-T San Diego, 1/3).


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