Bill Seeks to Reduce Secrecy Over Exchange Contracts

A state legislative committee approved a bill that would require California’s health insurance exchange to make more contract information publicly available. According to a report by the Associated Press, The Senate Health Committee voted 9 to 0 to pass the legislation by Republican Sen. Bill Emmerson and Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier. They introduced SB332 after a story by the Associated Press revealed how much privacy is granted to the Covered California exchange. When lawmakers created California’s health insurance exchange in 2010, they gave it the authority to conceal contracts for a year and the amounts paid indefinitely. Under existing rules, exchange officials can keep secret board meeting minutes, employee training materials, and records that reveal recommendations, research, or strategy.

SB332 seeks to reverse those restrictions. Under the bill, only contracts with health insurance plans could be withheld for a year. Payment details in those contracts would be private for four years. The updated disclosure rules were modeled on those used by the state’s Healthy Families program.

An Associated Press survey of the 16 other states that have opted for state-run marketplaces showed that the California agency was given powers that are the most restrictive in what information is required to be made public.

Five Republican U.S. senators have asked the HHS to investigate whether California is inappropriately concealing details of how it is spending federal dollars for building and running the insurance exchange.

In response to a previous Associated Press public records request, the agency released information on a dozen competitively bid contracts issued since early 2011. They included $14 million for a contract with Ogilvy Public Relations for marketing and $327 million for a five-year deal with consulting giant Accenture to develop a web portal and enrollment system. SB332 now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Last Updated 11/18/2020

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