Bill To Diversify Exchange Rolls Along

The Assembly Committee on Health unanimously agreed with the state Senate that the five-member board of directors at Covered California could use a little diversity.

SB 972 by Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) “will help diversify the Covered California board of directors by expanding the eligibility criteria to serve on the board,” Torres told the Assembly committee last week.

“Current law limits them only to experience in the health care field,” she said. The bill would expand qualifications to include: marketing of health insurance products and information technology system management.

“As Covered California evolves,” she said, “the expertise of its board should be augmented to reflect the diversity and needs of the state’s consumers.”

“This is an important step,” said Doug Kim, legislative advocate for California Primary Care Association, “to make sure people with cultural and linguistic proficiency will have added input into the board.”

The bill was prompted by a series of missteps by Covered California that contributed to low Latino enrollment numbers during the first half of the initial enrollment period.

The exchange did not have Spanish-language registration online for the first three months of open enrollment and it didn’t have enough Spanish-speaking call center workers, according to stakeholders.

Torres said the initial response to low Latino enrollment was simply to buy more advertising.

All of those miscues could be tied, at least in part, to a lack of diversity on the board, she said, along with unfamiliarity with marketing concepts and a lack of understanding about information technology.

The measure passed unanimously on a 16-0 vote, and now heads to the Assembly floor. A floor vote is expected Monday.

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