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California exchange: Worker checks slow service center start

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The builders of California’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange system say service center employee hiring requirements have put efforts to open the center behind schedule.

Originally, the staff of the California Health Benefit Exchange had hoped to have part of the Covered California PPACA exchange service center, or call center, open by Aug. 19, to help consumers, business owners and others with general inquiries.

Now, however, the exchange is waiting for lawmakers to give it clear statutory authority to collect fingerprints from applicants and send the prints to the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal information bureau, according to an analysis of a fingerprinting authority bill, California state Senate Bill 509, that was prepared for the state Senate.

The exchange builders are facing the delay because federal regulators have decided that exchanges need to fingerprint service center employees, and the Justice Department will let exchanges submit fingerprints for background checks only if the exchanges have clear statutory authority to do so, according to the state Senate analyst.

The state Senate approved S.B. 509. May 28. The Assembly Health Committee approved the bill Wednesday, and the bill is now awaiting consideration by the appropriations committee.

Juli Baker, the California exchange program’s chief technology officer, said in May in a service center update presentation that the fingerprint authority issue will probably keep Covered California from starting to answer general questions Aug. 19.

The “October 1 launch is compromised,” Baker said in the presentation.

The entire hiring and training schedule is at risk, and the delay could add to training and facility costs, Baker said.

The target date for getting a bill passed is June 14, and the target date for getting emergency regulations implementing a law approved is July 2, Baker said.

The exchange would like to make offers to fill 677 staff positions July 9, start training Aug. 12, and be ready to launch Oct. 1, Baker said. 

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