By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
A heath insurance broker and an insurance industry expert have joined Colorado’s health exchange board.
Senate Republicans appointed Marc Reece of Aetna to the board while House Democrats picked Jay Norris, a health insurance broker from Northern Colorado. Both will serve four-year terms.
The two newcomers replace Dr. Mike Fallon, who had been a financial watchdog on the board, and Arnold Salazar, who pressed for greater spending on the exchange. Salazar’s wife, Marguerite Salazar, is the Colorado Insurance Commissioner. She remains a non-voting member of the board, along with David Padrino of the governor’s office and Sue Birch, head of Medicaid programs for Colorado.
The new appointments come at a time when Colorado is facing increased scrutiny from a legislative review committee. Lawmakers are slated to meet Wednesday to hold additional hearings regarding Connect for Health Colorado. They are considering various options to improve or ditch Colorado’s exchange.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld subsidies for states that use the federal exchange, lawmakers may consider folding Colorado’s exchange and sending customers to the federal marketplace instead.
Among those who have advocated for a Colorado solution instead is Steve ErkenBrack, president of Rocky Mountain Health Plans. He signed on to serve another four years on the exchange board as did Nathan Wilkes, who runs his own technology firm. Both have been on the board since its inception along with Eric Grossman, who runs a health tech company.
Gov. John Hickenlooper earlier this year appointed Denise O’Leary to take over the term from Ellen Daehnick, a Wheat Ridge businesswoman whom the governor ousted after she spoke out about problems with Colorado’s exchange. In a statement, the governor highlighted O’Leary’s expertise in health care economics and IT. She is married to Kent Thiry, CEO of DaVita. O’Leary will serve until July of 2017.
Hickenlooper also appointed Adela Flores-Brennan, head of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, to represent consumers. Prior to serving on the board, Flores-Brennan ran the assistance network for the exchange. She will serve a four-year term.
Marc Reece recently moved to Aetna, which does not sell plans on Colorado’s exchange because it had exited the small group and individual markets in Colorado prior to the launch of the exchange. Before joining Aetna, Reese worked for the Colorado Association of Health Plans and represented the industry in creating Colorado’s exchange.
He said the commitment of long-term board members to stay on the board is a good sign.
“It just shows that everyone wants it to work,” Reece said.
As for his perspective, Reece said it’s helpful that Aetna doesn’t have a dog in the fight for the moment. The company hopes to get back in to the Colorado market, but for now, Reece wants to “bring a broader carrier voice to the table.”
Colorado’s exchange has struggled with IT glitches that have caused problems for at least 10 percent of customers.
“More than ever, we need to make sure that the health insurance industry is working for consumers,” Reece said after his first meeting as a board member on Monday.
Jay Norris is an independent insurance broker. With his wife, he founded the online firm, Colorado Health Insurance Insider.
During Monday’s meeting, Norris asked a number of questions that made it clear he’s intimately familiar with both the successes and the failings of Colorado’s exchange.
He was eager to know if Colorado’s exchange will get additional funds from Medicaid to help cover millions of dollars in costs for the exchange. And he wanted to be sure that IT glitches are fixed in time for the next open-enrollment period in November. In particular, he was concerned about customers who get booted from their existing plan if they’re shopping for another. That glitch snared thousands of exchange customers this year.
Norris wanted to be sure that customers will get to keep their coverage unless they clearly state they don’t want it anymore.
“If you want to disenroll, you should have to click a button,” Norris said.
Insurance brokers have been on the front lines both in signing people up for Colorado’s exchange and in detecting glitches. Industry representatives had pressed to have a broker on the board.