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Should Covered California Be Allowed To Keep Secrets?

Three years ago when legislation was written to create California’s health insurance exchange, lawmakers thought it would be a good idea to let the new exchange board keep a few competitive secrets.

Now some legislators aren’t so sure.

Covered California, as the exchange is now known, has the authority to keep all contracts confidential for a year and the health plan rates concealed indefinitely. The exchange can keep other secrets as well — dealing with negotiations, some meeting minutes, training programs and other facets. California’s exchange has more options to keep secrets than any other state-run exchange, according to the Associated Press.

National legislators are jumping into the debate as well. Five Republican U.S. senators sent a letter asking HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to investigate California’s exchange policies on concealing information.

An Associated Press review of the 16 other states building state-run exchanges found the California agency has the most leeway for secrecy and that some specific exclusions from open-records laws might run afoul of the state constitution.

State officials estimate Covered California will spend more than $450 million on contractors by the end of next year.

We asked legislators and stakeholders to explain the advantages and disadvantages of allowing Covered California to keep secrets.