Long Busy Day for the Exchange Board

by David Gorn

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The Health Benefit Exchange board issued a draft establishment grant proposal Wednesday, which is basically a blueprint of the exchange's business and operational plan through 2017, the year it is supposed to become self-sufficient.

The board also took on a number of other issues on Wednesday, including imminent submission of its quality health plans proposal to the Office of Administrative Law. The eight-hour meeting had a get-down-to-business tone, partly in response to the reelection of President Obama, which ensures a smoother track for implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

"We've been moving full steam ahead for over a year now," said Peter Lee, executive director of the HBEx board. "So this is a good meeting to have right after the election."

Today is the deadline for states to declare whether or not they want to operate their own exchanges, and it's a bit of a moot point for California, Lee said, but he still made it official at Wednesday's meeting.

"We do want to operate as a state-based exchange," Lee said. "The federal government extended the deadline for states to decide, but we don't need more time. We've been working feverishly for that last year."

California has already received the first installment of its federal establishment grant money, and it is about to apply for the Level 2 establishment grant. "That will take us through 2014, and we also have before us the sustainability plan, so we can be operating self-sufficiently. We hope by 2017 we will be operating on 2% or less of premiums."

Lee was referring to a sustainability report presented at Wednesday's meeting that makes contingency plans for the exchange to become self-sufficient by 2017, running on a 2% premium assessment fee no matter what level of enrollment the exchange experiences. Capitol Desk will cover that plan in more detail on Monday.

"And finally, we are hearing a proposal to get health plans in the door to get coverage in place and make this real for millions of Californians," Lee said. "This is a big day."

The exchange will make a sizable difference in the health care landscape, Lee said.

After one year, we expect to have 1.4 million people enrolled in Covered California. And after two years, we expect to have more than two million Californians enrolled. "These are people who wouldn't otherwise have this coverage without the exchange." Lee said.

"These are big numbers," he said. "These are bigger numbers than [the population of] many states in the union."


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