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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Exchange Board and staff water down already watered-down affordability and access provisions In a surprise to advisory committee co-chairs, CT Health Insurance Exchange staff submitted four alternative policy proposals at today’s Board meeting – they were adopted virtually intact by the Board. The staff alternatives were contrary to the recommendations adopted Tuesday by the Consumer and Qualified Health Plan Advisory Committees, with Exchange staff at every meeting. One staff change increased the number of options insurers can offer (in response to insurance industry comments); research shows that consumers prefer and make better choices with a limited number of well-vetted options. Another eliminated a secret shopper survey to ensure that the plan’s provider panels are accurate; in a Mercer study of HUSKY plans, shoppers were only able to get appointments with one in four providers on those HMO panels. Staff stated that accountability in secret shopper surveys seem “too adversarial” with insurers. Another proposal reduced the number of essential community providers that plans have to include in their networks, such as community health centers. The last one eliminated even the guidance that the Exchange will develop a plan of some undefined type to eventually, someday move along a continuum toward an active purchasing model. Active purchasing now saves MA exchange consumers millions in premiums by fostering competition and negotiating rates with insurers.
Staff reviewed comments to the draft health plan solicitation. Ten of the 22 comments mentioned were from insurers – half were accepted in the staff proposals, two were not, and three others were not relevant. Five comments came from NCQA, two from unknown sources, four from this consumer advocate (none were reflected in proposals) and one from a provider (was reflected in joint committee proposal).
The Exchange staff also announced they have hired Pappas Macdonnell, a Westport marketing firm with experience in selling corporate insurance and financial products. When asked if they have any experience in marketing to low-income, uninsured populations, one representative noted that he has worked on Democratic political campaigns.
In other news, they have settled on a new name for the Exchange – Access Health. They also have submitted an application for $2.6 million in federal funding for application assisters. They expect to award about 300 grants of about $6,000 each to community organizations to publicize the exchange, help people figure out what assistance they are eligible for, and help them enroll. They have hired three new Exchange staff this month.
 
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