California made history on April 20 by being the first state in the country to hold an official meeting on the state health insurance exchange. The average person might find one board meeting insignificant—board meetings aren’t always the sexiest events, granted. But the policies this board makes will undoubtedly impact the average person’s bottom line, especially those of small business owners, which significantly increases its appeal and has our full attention.
The Affordable Care Act requires states to set up health insurance exchanges by 2014. California has become a national leader in this effort as the legislature passed, and former Gov. Schwarzenegger signed, legislation creating the state health insurance exchange last year. Taking such a significant step early in the process allows California ample time to work out the details on how the exchange will operate, which means the state’s small businesses will benefit from this careful planning through more choices and reduced healthcare premiums.
Our California Outreach Director, David Chase, attended yesterday’s meeting and reported back with some good news: the state has already received a $1 million planning grant to help set up the exchange, and the board voted unanimously to apply for an additional grant to help fund the establishment of the exchange. The board tentatively scheduled its next meeting on May 11 to discuss topics that may include a review of the grant application process, a discussion on the small group market in California and the requirements for the SHOP exchange. We’ll follow this and other developments closely and provide frequent updates as details of the exchange begin to emerge.
This is an exciting time for California’s small business community. The nation is watching, and if we do this right, other states will follow. Though we have a challenging road ahead, we should all be encouraged about this historic opportunity to lower healthcare costs for small businesses and the millions they employ.