State Exchange Official: Provider Directory Released Prematurely
Peter Lee -- executive director of Covered California -- said that state health insurance exchange officials should not have released an online directory of doctors and hospitals last week, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Cadelago , "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/14).
Background on Directory
The directory of health care providers associated with exchange plans originally was scheduled to be available during the first week of open enrollment -- which began Oct. 1 -- but it was delayed and did not go online until a week later.
The directory then was removed from the exchange website one day after its release because of inaccuracies and slow performance (California Healthline, 10/11).
Comments From Lee
According to Lee, the directory was released prematurely.
Lee said, "I want to have great customer service, and I push us to get stuff out there," adding, "But I ... need to be careful about not pushing too fast. [The directory] was an example of actually being out there too fast."
He said that problems with the directory are making news and distracting from the exchange's relatively smooth launch. However, Lee said that if such issues are "as bad as it gets" for the exchange, he is "feeling pretty good" about the exchange (Cadelago , "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/14).
Lee Unconcerned With 'Opt Out' Campaigns
Meanwhile, Lee said he is not concerned with advertisements -- including an online ad campaign by billionaires Charles and David Koch -- that urge younger, healthier individuals to "opt out" of state health insurance exchanges.
"I don't think the Koch brothers are going to spend a dime on having ads run in California," Lee said.
He added that both Democratic and Republican officials in California support the policies in the Affordable Care Act. Lee said, "The fight over it today I really think is not really about the underlining policies. It's the fight over not liking the president ... and wanting to play for Congress" (Cadelago , "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/14).
Calif. Exchange Rejects Online Brokerages
In related news, Covered California is managing enrollment on its own rather than using online brokers, even as federally run exchanges have embraced such services, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Online brokers earn money by charging insurers fees to help sell policies and by taking commissions on sales, according to the Times.
Critics of online brokers say the companies:
- Promote plans offered by insurers that pay higher commissions; and
- Do not consistently share important information about health plans.
However, Gary Lauer -- CEO of EHealth, one of the brokers working with federally run exchanges -- said federal rules require equal treatment of all insurers in the exchange.
"The real objective here is to enroll as many people as possible, especially younger people," Lauer said, adding, "I'm really puzzled why Covered California continues to resist working with us. I think they are making a big mistake."
Anne Gonzales -- a spokesperson for Covered California -- said the exchange might be interested in working with online brokers in 2015. She said exchange officials still "need to spend some time on how that might work" (Terhune, Los Angeles Times, 10/14).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.