Exchange Board Gets Down to Business

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

A couple of weeks ago we blogged about California’s newly-created Health Benefit Exchange Board and its first meeting in order to help track the board’s progress in setting up the state’s health insurance exchange. Small business owners are looking forward to 2014, when the exchange will take effect, so they can pool together with other small employers and purchase health insurance at a more affordable rate—which is why what happens at these meetings is so important. The board held its second meeting on Wednesday, and our California Outreach Director David Chase was on hand to get all the details.

Determining how the exchange will be set up in order to get small businesses the most bang for their buck is essential. To this extent, the board heard from Rick Curtis, a leading national expert who works at the Institute for Health Policy Solutions. He spoke about the needs of small businesses and how the SHOP exchange should be built to attract the state’s employers, keep prices low and increase choice and quality. He stressed that:

  • The board should think about the individual and SHOP exchanges as two very different exchanges, serving two different populations with different needs;
  • The SHOP exchange is not subject to the fate that previous failed exchanges in CA have seen because of the new market rules in the ACA;
  • Employee-choice is essential; and
  • The exchange should have a business-friendly customer service function and offer additional administrative services to help save small businesses time and money.

California is leading the nation in setting up its exchanges, so leaders want to make sure the entire process is smooth and gets as much input from the small business community as possible. The points Rick stressed are some of the biggest priorities small business owners have on this issue, because they want more choice and competition, and unlike the current healthcare system, convenience when purchasing a plan that best meets their budget and needs.

Our California Outreach Director, David Chase, also provided the small business perspective on how best to set up the SHOP exchange. He emphasized that the exchange must be easy to use, especially the web portal and customer service function that are meant to allow small business owners to shop in an online marketplace for the right plan. David also reminded board members that the SHOP needs to be a clearly distinguished product from what is currently available in the outside market so small business owners know the difference between different plans when shopping around. And David encouraged the Board to hire a professional staff to manage the exchange so entrepreneurs receive the best customer service possible.

David will be in attendance again when the board reconvenes later this month, and plans to continually provide the small business perspective so small businesses get the relief this exchange has the ability to provide. Stay tuned!

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