SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A state legislative committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would require California’s health insurance exchange to make more contract information publicly available, even as advocates for open government urged lawmakers to go further.
The Senate Health Committee voted 9-0 to pass the legislation by Republican Sen. Bill Emmerson and Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier. They introduced the bill, SB332, after a story by The Associated Press revealed the unique degree of privacy granted to Covered California, as the exchange is called.
When lawmakers created California’s health insurance exchange in 2010 under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), they gave it the authority to conceal contracts for a year and the amounts paid indefinitely.
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.
Government transparency advocates say contract details should be disclosed once the agreements are final, noting the tens of millions of dollars that will flow to private companies.
“There’s a need for confidentially up to the point where the agreement is entered into,” Peter Scheer, executive director of the San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition, said in an interview Wednesday. “Then all the material information needs to be made public unless there’s some really compelling reason not to.”
Under current rules, exchange officials can keep secret board meeting minutes, employee training materials and records that reveal recommendations, research or strategy. SB332 also seeks to reverse those restrictions.