The hearing room for the first Health Insurance Exchange Board was standing room only, and advocates unhappy with the composition of the board said the ratio of insurance executives to advocates and consumers was 50 to 1.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who chairs the board, said the turnout was understandable since there’s a lot of interest in the board.
“This is really an important group of people who have to sit down and deal with the health care issues in our state,” Wyman said last week after the meeting.
Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project, doesn’t disagree the board is important. She said that’s why she’s concerned about the number of former insurance executives on it and how their decisions will impact her clients. Andrews’ clients participate in private and public insurance plans that will be part of the exchange. She says the federal law allowing the exchanges expressly prohibits appointing board members with ties to the insurance industry.
Andrews and Kevin Galvin, chairman of Small Business for a Healthy Connecticut, sent out a statement advocating for the 14-member board to add two more members: one consumer advocate and one who represents small business.
“Under its current configuration, small business owners and advocates for individual consumers, who are struggling every day to find affordable, meaningful health insurance, will have no voice in defining what benefits the health care plans included in the Exchange will offer,“ Andrews and Galvin said. “It is hard to understand how this kind of decision making meets the letter or the spirit of health care reform.”
Wyman said she hadn’t seen the statement, but suggested that Andrews and Galvin lobby the legislature if it wants to change the configuration of the board. She said the board has no power to add new members.
The board was appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders from all four caucuses.
It will be responsible for setting up the quasi-public agency that’s in charge of Connecticut’s health care exchange. The exchange will be where everyone in the state is mandated to purchase their insurance beginning in 2014.
Health care advocates like Andrews previously voiced their concern about the composition of the board when the members were announced in August.
“We are very disappointed that the membership is dominated by insurance interests,” Andrews said. “These same insurance interests, that lobbied against health reform in Washington last year, are now in charge of implementing it here in Connecticut. I am very worried for the estimated 140,000 Connecticut consumers in our state who will be forced to purchase coverage through this exchange to get any subsidies.”
Malloy himself has said he only had two appointments and he considers Wyman, a consumer advocate. Malloy also appointed former Aetna executive Mary Fox to the board.
Wyman said the board is working on a very short time frame and is pushing forward with the important work of the board.
At its meeting last week the board created two separate committees: one to find a chief executive officer to head the quasi-public agency and one to write a request for proposal for legal services.
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes, Healthcare Advocate Vicki Veltri, Robert Tessier, Robert Scalettar, and Fox will head the national search committee. They are expected to submit three names to Malloy early next year. The chief executive officer is expected to be in place by Feb. 1.
Asked about the salary range for the position, Wyman said she couldn’t give one publicly before the request for proposals goes out. However, she said they will be paid with a portion of the $6.7 million grant the state received from the federal government to help create the exchange.
Connecticut was one of 14 states to receive a grant to implement the exchange. Eight of those 14 states have yet to set up a structure to deal with the exchange.
The search committee will meet Sept. 22 or Sept. 30, and the full board will meet again on Oct. 20, Nov. 17, and Dec. 15.
Wyman promised to keep the meetings to under two hours.