California enacts legislation for nation’s first exchange under federal health reform

In signing legislation that would create a statewide exchange for health insurance by 2014, California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the first to enact law under federal health care reform. Gov. Schwarzenegger said in a statement that it was up to the states to make national reform work.

“California is moving forward on reforms that will provide affordable and quality health care insurance,” the governor said in a statement. “With the California Health Benefit Exchange, we will be able to create a competitive marketplace where consumers can choose among qualified health plans – all without relying on the state’s General Fund.”

In April of this year, Governor Schwarzenegger formed a Health Care Reform Task Force to implement key reform provisions and programs, including the Exchange. The California Health Benefit Exchange will make it easier for individuals and employees of small businesses to compare plans and buy health insurance in the private market, enabling them to find federal tax subsidies to make health coverage more affordable.

Federal health care reform makes tax credits and subsidies available in 2014 to Californians with incomes between 133 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level – approximately $29,000 to $88,000 for a family of four – the governor’s office said in a statement.

A five-member board, appointed by the governor and the legislature will develop procedures and criteria to enroll Californians and select qualified health plans to participate by the end of 2013.

“We believe the Exchange will improve the way millions of Californians get health insurance in our state,” said California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshé, who chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Health Care Reform Implementation. “The Exchange will focus competition on price, quality and service – giving individuals and small business employees the same large-group purchasing advantages and more affordable options now enjoyed by those who work for large firms.”

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