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Insurance Exchange meeting allows limited public comment

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Partially responding to widespread calls to respect consumer voices, the CT Health Insurance Exchange Board allowed 12 minutes of public comment at the beginning of today’s meeting. Speakers were limited to two minutes each – there was only time for five. They heard from a struggling consumer, a small business owner, advocates and a representative of the faith community that, while we are grateful for this effort, the process needs to be far more open. Several Board members seemed moved by the testimony and understood that they are missing important perspectives critical if the exchange is going to work. The Board is currently hiring senior staff, developing a budget, beginning to develop a mission statement and guiding principles, and choosing an administrator for the exchange, all without voting consumer input. Mintz and Hoke, the advertising agency hired for consumer input, was criticized by speakers and Board members for soliciting limited input and not reaching out to CT’s well-organized consumer advocacy networks. Their scope is limited to message-testing for the eventual exchange products, not listening to customers about how those products should be designed to meet the demands of the market. They emphasized mass media, which has not historically been successful in outreach in CT, social media and texting. While texting and social media are commonly used between young invincibles in personal communications, it is unclear whether they are effective vehicles to sell health insurance. They are still researching other states’ consumer research efforts and populations eligible for the exchange; unfortunately, it is unclear if there is time for a learning curve. The speaker helping the Board with governance put consumers at the end of the chain of stakeholders (never mentioned small businesses) and equated consumers with providers and health plans in importance. It was clear that Board members have not seen consulting contracts, RFPs or other solicitations before they are finalized. The administrative RFP will be “fast tracked” concerning many consumers and small businesses.  Mike Devine, the only small business owner on the Board, asked whether KPMG, hired for business operations, had investigated overlap with other agencies in CT, and other states. There is likely a great deal of overlap with other states, particularly the New England collaborative, and federal and very well-resourced privately funded programs that are developing innovative enrollment, operations and outreach programs. After an hour and a half of public meeting, the Board went into secret executive session for an hour and twenty minutes. After which they reconvened for less than a minute to adjourn, without voting or reporting on what was discussed in executive session.
Ellen Andrews

 
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