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May Exchange Board Meeting

The following blog was written by Micah Weinberg, Senior Research Fellow in the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation, on Tuesday, May 24th.

The California Health Benefit Exchange held its third meeting today at an auditorium in downtown Sacramento. The meeting was an opportunity for the Exchange staff to update the broader health policy community – many of whom were in attendance or watched the webcast – on progress toward planning the development of this new portal to coverage for the state. The substantive focus of this meeting was on integration with existing state programs and systems.

Leveling Up

“Level 1 or bust” has become the mantra of the Exchange team, particularly of Exchange board member Kim Belshé. She is the subcommittee of one charged with submitting the “establishment grant” applications to the federal government for this nascent state agency. The first (“Level 1”) grant, which the Board plans to review at its next meeting on June 15th and may approve at the following meeting on June 28th, will among other things provide more funding to hire a staff for the Exchange. (The June 15th meeting will feature the participation of key federal government officials Joel Ario and Cindy Mann and will be held at the auditorium of the Department of Health Care Services.)

Pending the approval of this grant, expected by the end of the summer, the Exchange is being run on a shoestring budget, staffed primarily by people from other parts of the government who have been assisted by consultants supported by charitable philanthropies. Their work is being directed by Pat Powers, the Interim Administrative Director of the Exchange. She promised that, after the Level 1 grant is submitted, there will be time to step back and think about the broader vision for this work and to do more strategic planning.

The compressed timeline and skeleton crew also meant that the documents for this board meeting were not posted far in advance and the formal process of stakeholder engagement has yet to be initiated. These were issues of concern raised in public comment. There has, however, been extensive informal stakeholder engagement, and the broader health policy community remains actively involved in this process as demonstrated by yet another packed auditorium.