State Health Exchange—the Nation’s Most Secretive—May Get a Small Dose of Sunshine

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

California’s new health benefits exchange has a more secretive process for vendor contracts than any of the other 16 states participating in the rollout of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, according to a survey by the Associated Press.

Shortly after the news organization revealed that tidbit last month during the grand rollout of the heavily veiled state exchange system, lawmakers, who had passed the original legislation shrouding it in 2010, began working on a bill to add a little more transparency.

Senate Bill 332 would broaden the amount—and speed up the release—of information about how Covered California would spend an estimated $458 million by 2014 on expenses like legal services and public relations.

Right now, all contracts can be kept secret for a year and the cost of the contracts can be secret forever.

SB 332 would still keep contracts confidential for a year, but some stuff would be made available to the public immediately. Minutes of board meetings, information on employee training, research, staff and board strategy sessions, and research—currently state secrets—would be public.

Information in contracts that relates to rates would remain secret for four years.

According to the Sacramento Business Journal, the bill changes current law to match rules used by the state Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board. Democratic Assembly Speaker John Pérez told the AP that the secrecy provisions were so uncontroversial, the Senate Health Committee passed them without debate. Republican state Senator Sam Aanestad, a panel member, disagreed and said he had opposed them.      

The bill’s first hearing is set for June 12. It was introduced as an urgency statute that would allow it to take effect immediately upon passage and approval by the governor.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Bill Would Narrow Rate Secrecy Provisions at Covered California (by Kathy Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal)

Covered California Exchange to Lift the Veil—a Little (by Chris Rauber, San Francisco Business Times)

AP Exclusive: Calif. Exchange Granted Secrecy (by Michael R. Blood, Associated Press)

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