After the catastrophe that was the 2008 economic collapse, the American public wanted answers: why didn’t we see this coming, why didn’t they see it coming, or did they? Too big to fail but too fraught with cover-ups, these banks hid, tweaked and transformed numbers and information to keep the then-lax regulators at bay and investors in the closet. The public, it seemed, was the last thing on their minds.
But, as we know, there have been improvements since then. Dodd-Frank, the Wall Street Consumer Reform and Protection Act, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act and even the Mortgage Disclosure Improvement Act. Yes, even a “disclosure” act.
Some would like the U.S. government to do the same with its policies and procedures, especially after many felt duped by the NSA. The truth is, the government doesn’t care about who Joe Smith from Scottsdale is talking to. They’re focused on, as they say, protecting the nation. But that doesn’t matter — the public felt betrayed by a president who, in 2009, called the time of his reign an “era of open government.”
It has been proven that such a statement may not be completely true. Lawmakers in California, however, are trying to create a system without secrecy when it comes to the state’s health care exchanges. In late June, a state legislative committee approved a bill that would require the state’s health insurance exchange to make more contract information publicly available. This was in reaction to news that revealed a certain amount of privacy was granted to the state’s exchange, known as Covered California, which was not granted to other states’ exchanges. When lawmakers created California’s exchange, they gave it the authority to conceal contracts for a year and the amounts paid indefinitely. The 16 other states that opted for state-run marketplaces were not granted such privacy.
Why would such an authority need to be granted in the first place? To keep the public — the very people who will one day use the exchange — in the dark? Five Republican U.S. Senators have asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate how California is spending federal dollars. And the issue seems to be bipartisan. Both Sens. Bill Emmerson, R-Calif., and Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., introduced this newest initiative, bill SB332, to require California’s health care exchange to make more contract information publicly available. We’ll see if California can help create an era of open exchanges.
The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.