The February Exchange Board meeting began with the announcement that Covered California is now online at www.coveredca.com. The homepage of the website, which can also be viewed in Spanish, includes a countdown to January 1, 2014 when “new coverage begins for millions of Californians.” The webpage also includes a cost-estimate calculator and links to a fact sheet provided in eleven different languages.
In his executive director’s report, Peter Lee announced Covered California’s intention to hold town hall meetings around California this year. Advocates and stakeholders responded very favorably to the plan as it gives a larger, more diverse group of advocates and community members an opportunity to provide public comment on Covered California’s progress. A tentative schedule for the town hall meetings can be found below:
During the executive director’s report, Larry Bye of NORC at the University of Chicago presented on a study that assessed the level of awareness, general attitudes, and interest of small businesses owners to participate in the SHOP Exchange. Findings indicate that once small business owners were informed about how insurance reforms would affect them and how the SHOP exchange will operate, they became more inclined to explore and use Covered California.
Jim Brown and Keith Ketcher updated the board on the progress of the CalHEERS system, informing the Board that a number of features will need to be released at a later date. These include supplemental vision and dental plan functionalities, online filing of appeals and exemptions, Medi-Cal plan selection, authorized representatives, and bridge plan functionalities.
Katie Ravel presented information on recently released federal proposed rules and provided insight from CMS on the Basic Health Program. HHS expects to issue proposed rules for the BHP in 2013 with final guidance to follow in 2014. For states interested in pursuing a BHP, the program should be operational in 2015. Ravel also reviewed recommendations for the background check program for Covered CA employees and assisters. Key recommendations would:
• Require fingerprint-based background checks for all service center employees, employees working in eligibility and enrollment and IT, and assisters prior to hiring with periodic re-screening.
• Disqualify individuals with a conviction or pending charge of a felony or misdemeanor related to theft, fraud, dishonestly or a crime of moral turpitude.
Covered California will pay for employee and assister background checks and will consider mitigating factors for certain offenses, such as rehabilitation and the age and specifics of the offense. Some advocates argued the finger-printing process is overly intrusive and may exclude members of minority communities who may be disproportionately likely to have certain offenses on their records. Since employees and assisters will have access to sensitive information, it is important that their background offenses be considered based on a uniform standard.
To conclude the executive director’s report, Sarah-Soto Taylor provided an update on the Outreach and Education Grant Program. She informed the board that Covered California received at least one letter of intent from each county, with Los Angeles County leading the pack by submitting 94 LOIs. Covered California has been having ongoing discussions to coordinate their grant making activities with that of private foundations. Grant applications are due March 4, 1013. A timeline of other grant activities can be found below:
The staff also provided additional information about the warm handoff process in service centers. A “warm handoff” is defined as the transferring representative at the Covered California Service Center remaining on the line with the customer and introducing him or her to the County representative within 30 seconds. This applies to all callers, including Limited English Proficient (LEP) and hearing or visually impaired callers. Covered California has started thinking about the interagency agreements that will be necessary for the warm handoffs to counties. During the next board meeting, Covered California plans to will discuss the process for performance reviews (to ensure counties are responsive at the service centers and meeting specified standards) and contingency plans.
The February meeting ended with a discussion on qualified health plan contracting. Covered California has successfully designed a standardized benefit for health plans in the exchange. The board took the only action of the meeting and approved the bridge plan program to ensure continuity of care and affordability.
The next Exchange Board meeting will be March 21, 2013.
Meeting materials are available online.