Governor Transition Might Hinder Grant

The new governor takes office on Jan. 3 — but that would be too late for California to apply for a large federal innovation grant, according to a number of health care advocate groups.

“We’re in this lull period,” Lucien Wulsin of the Insure the Uninsured Project said, “with the outgoing Schwarzenegger administration and the incoming Brown, there’s this whole handoff thing.”

And since the innovation grant application has to go in by Dec. 23, Wulsin said that’s a little worrisome.

“We just want to make sure this grant doesn’t fall through the cracks, because it’s a pretty tight deadline.”

The “Early Innovator” federal grant is being offered to five states to help fund development of information technology systems for the health benefits exchange. In a letter to Schwarzenegger’s health secretary, Kim Belshe, 13 health care groups urge California to take advantage of it. Along with Wulsin’s Insure the Uninsured Project, the letter is signed by California Primary Care Association, The Children’s Partnership, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, Small Business California and eight other organizations.

“The [health benefits] exchange is going to be complex to implement,” Wulsin said. “We’re delighted that the governor and California acted so quickly to establish it, and the whole smart shopper context makes it easy to compare insurance packages. The sooner you get to work on doing that effectively, the better.”

State officials said they are aware of the grant deadline, but did not have official word yet on where the application process stands.

“This smart-shopper part of the exchange is a terrific idea, and we have to do it,” Wulsin said. “We just want California to get a shot at doing it early, and doing it right.”

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