Industry-friendly appointees of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger continue to hold undue power at the California Health Benefits Exchange–the key body that is already deciding how Californians will get their health care under full federal reform in 2014.
The Schwarzenegger appointees are Kim Belshe (former head of the Dept. of Managed Health Care) and Susan Kennedy (former chief of staff), along with Gov. Brown's appointee, Diana Dooley, legislative appointee Paul Fearer (a business representative), and Robert Ross, head of the California Endowment.
What we're particularly waiting on is a discussion of legislation that affects the Exchange, which is last on the agenda.
At its last meeting, the board voted to recommend exempting policies in the Exchange from price oversight by state regulators if a new, tougher law on prior approval of health insurance is enacted. The vote was bulldozed by Belshe and Kennedy, with Fearer joining them. The author of the legislation, AB52, begged for a delay on the vote and some discussion of regulation and the Exchange policies. But Belshe, Kennnedy and Fearer refused to listen.
If the Exchange is governed by an industry-friendly majority, exempted from regulators' examination of prices, the intent of reform to cut insurance costs will be down the drain.
A recent discussion of cheaper insurance through online signup, pared-down consumer service and fewer providers is illustrative. If the Exchange makes all of it efficiencies dependent on cutting what consumers get, and ignores the waste and greed of the insurance industry, no consumers will feel like health insurance reform is aimed at helping them.