Exchange Looks at Outreach, Focus Groups, By-Laws

The Supreme Court decision on the fate of the national health care reform law, expected this week or next, could have a significant impact on the work and purpose of the California Health Benefit Exchange.

But that isn’t slowing the project one bit.

Today, the exchange board meets to discuss some big agenda items: outreach, marketing, insurance coverage assisters and agents, the second phase of its establishment grant and yet another look at its bylaws.

At its meeting last week, the board discussed weighing in on state legislation and heard the results of a series of focus groups, which board members said could help steer the exchange’s marketing efforts.

All of that is shadowed by the pending Supreme Court decision, which has the potential to pull the plug on some or all of the exchange funding. At last weeki’s meeting, executive director Peter Lee said the exchange is soldiering forward, independent of the pending ruling, though it is certainly aware of the difficulties that could be imposed by the Supreme Court.

Lee made sure to mention one particular resource being posted on the exchange’s website:

“We will post a report on what the fallout might be of the Supreme Court decision,” Lee said. “But we are confident in our work going forward.”

Part of that work could be influenced by legislation at the state level, as well, according to David Panush, director of government relations for the exchange.

“With about 75 days left [of the current legislative session], we are at the beginning of the middle of the process,” Panush said. “We have to be actively engaged in the process now. So we’re requesting that exchange staff should be allowed to speak to technical issues in legislative issues.”

Panush presented the board with a draft resolution to authorize staff to speak with staff members of legislators.

“We have to weigh in at this point,” he said. That’s because the board meets monthly, which limits the time the board can spend on legislative bills.

“We have to come to grips with this by the July meeting [of the exchange board],” Panush said. “Just to see which bills the board wants to take a position on. And authorizing staff [to speak on the board’s behalf] could help avoid fights we may have to fight.”

Board member Kim Belshé pointed out that it was difficult to weigh in on legislation during last year’s session, because of those relatively infrequent exchange board meetings compared to the quicker timeline of legislation. In particular, the board last year decided to take a position against AB 52, an insurance rate regulation bill.

“It created a lot more tension by not being able to engage in the process earlier,” Belshé said.

The board voted 5-0 to approve the draft resolution for authorization.

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