SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The board overseeing California's efforts to establish an insurance marketplace for providing affordable health care approved its operational blueprint Wednesday, an essential step toward meeting a key deadline under the federal health care reform law.
The governor's office is expected to forward the plan to the Obama administration on Friday, the deadline for states to notify the federal government about whether they plan to establish health care exchanges. The deadline for states to submit an operational plan, as California is doing, has been extended to mid-December.
"We don't need more time," said Peter Lee, the board's executive director. "We've been working feverishly over the past year, we're excited about going forward, and that blueprint is a big deal."
The action by the California Health Benefit Exchange board, which changed its name last month to Covered California, kicks off a sprint toward the Jan. 1, 2014, deadline for states to have health insurance exchanges up and running.
In 2010, California became the first state to authorize a health insurance exchange after passage of the federal Affordable Care Act. It is expected to offer affordable care to some 3 million uninsured Californians, although Lee said a realistic coverage figure by 2017 is closer to 2.3 million.
Another 1.2 million to 1.6 million Californians are expected to be covered under expanded Medicaid provisions.
Small-business owners who find it difficult to provide health coverage to their employees also are a prime target of the coming marketplace.
"This is a big moment for California going forward," Lee said, shortly before the board unanimously approved the blueprint and an application for more than $700 million in federal grant money. One of the five members of the exchange board, Dr. Robert Ross, was absent.
Some states may opt out, meaning the federal government will step in and operate their insurance marketplace, while others will create an exchange in conjunction with the federal government.
Until open enrollment begins next October, Covered California will hire staff, set up the exchange, begin educating the public about how it will work and select health plans to participate from the 33 that have indicated they intend to submit bids.
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