California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Benefit Exchange Delays Setting Employer, Employee Choice

On Thursday, the California Health Benefit Exchange delayed action on setting the degree of choice that employers and employees have when using the exchange, the Sacramento Business Journal reports.

According to the Journal, officials are discussing whether choice could affect the viability of the exchange and the affordability of its health plans (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 8/24).

Background

The federal health reform law requires states to launch online insurance marketplaces by 2014.

The California Health Benefit Exchange primarily will serve individuals and small businesses.

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

An estimated 4.4 million Californians are expected to use the exchange by the end of 2016.

Officials plan to open registration for the exchange in October 2013 (California Healthline, 8/3).

Options for Choice

Exchange officials discussed three options for degree of choice:

  • Employers choose a tier of coverage and allow employees to select among available health plans within that tier;
  • Employers choose two insurers and two tiers and employees pick from the offered health plans and tiers; and
  • Employers choose the health plan and employees choose the level of coverage among the tiers.

Exchange officials recommended the first two options but said that the third option should be discussed.

Comments

Garry Maisel -- CEO at Western Health Advantage -- expressed support for the first option, noting that it is the only type of choice that is different from the current insurance market.

Maisel said, "With all due respect, the current market is broken. That's why we are here." He added, "Let the free market work -- it works best when the employee has choice."

John Arensmeyer -- founder and CEO of the Small Business Majority -- said, "Employee choice is the single biggest benefit and difference from the outside [health insurance] market" (Sacramento Business Journal, 8/24). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.