Bridge Plan Approved by Exchange Board

California’s Health Benefit Exchange board yesterday approved a plan to seamlessly allow low-income Medi-Cal managed care beneficiaries to choose a health plan offered by the exchange, now known as Covered California.

The idea is to allow movement between Medi-Cal and Covered California when beneficiaries’ circumstances change, so more people can stay insured without disruption. The exchange plans to launch the program in April 2014.

Up to 840,000 Californians could be eligible for it, according to David Panush, director of government relations for Covered California.

“We have two [staff] recommendations,” Panush said at yesterday’s board meeting. “First, on the narrow bridge, we request board approval. … And our second recommendation is to keep working on the broad bridge, to include those under 200% of federal poverty level.”

State HHS Secretary Diana Dooley, chair of the exchange board said state officials hope to eventually implement the “broad bridge” concept.

“The administration is in support of the broad bridge effort, and we are in conversation with the feds about it,” Dooley said.

The board approved the narrow bridge option on a 3-0 vote, with two members absent. The plan will need legislative support to change California law to support it.

The exchange’s executive director, Peter Lee, said the action was historic. “We are in many places in the nation being a pace car,” he said. “This is another place where we are being that pace car.”

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