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First Exchange Board Meeting Within ‘Couple of Weeks’

Just because California doesn’t have a full board for the Health Benefits Exchange doesn’t mean it can’t get to work.

“As long as we have a quorum, we can meet,” exchange board member Kim Belshé said yesterday. “And we expect to meet in the next couple of weeks, whether we have that fifth person or not.”

Belshé, former secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, spoke at the State of Health Care Conference in Sacramento. She is one of four appointed members of the exchange board, along with current CHHS secretary Diana Dooley, Susan Kennedy and Paul Fearer. The Senate Rules Committee, headed by Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), will appoint the final board member, but that appointment is not yet on the committee’s weekly agenda.

Time is short, Belshé said.

“We have so much work to do,” she said. “I am sobered by the amount of work, but at the same time encouraged by the opportunity, and by the expectation of having our first meeting later this month.”

Belshé broke out a “2014 Is Tomorrow” pin and fastened it to her lapel. “Really, 2014 is actually starting to feel like yesterday,” she said with a smile.

“Time is of the essence, especially around setting up eligibility and enrollment systems. And from a federal government approval perspective.”

The new exchange board also needs to pick an interim executive officer, and hire the exchange’s executive director.

“It’s not like there’s been nothing going on. There has been ongoing work within HHS,” Belshé said. “What options we can bring up for the exchange. We’re hoping at the first meeting to come up with a timeline, to be clear about deliverables, we need to facilitate the development of a business plan.”

Despite the mountain of work ahead for the exchange board, Belshé said California is ahead of the national curve.

“We are in enviable position in California,” she said. “In other states, they’re running around with their hair on fire. Can they get a bill? And can they get a bill that’s meaningful?”

Chad Silva of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California sat on the panel with Belshé. He said the Senate’s choice for the board reflects California’s population.

“Right now there are no people of color on the board,” Silva said. “There are four very competent people on the board, but no one of color, so I’d like to see the last person be Latino, to be a person of color.”

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