SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a bill that will diversify the expertise of the five-member board of directors of Covered California, the state's health care exchange.
While previous state law limited the expertise of board members to only those with experience in certain health care fields, Senate Bill 972 by Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) expands the criteria to allow individuals with expertise in marketing, information technology, management information systems and cultural competency in enrollment counseling.
Covered California spokesman Dana Howard said the exchange "is happy to serve whomever is appointed by the governor and the Legislature" to the board, which is an independent public entity within state government.
Torres introduced the bill in response to criticism of Covered California's lackluster customer service and its under-enrollment of Latino consumers during the first open enrollment period that ended April 15 under the nation's new health care law.
Despite widespread problems enrolling Latinos, the exchange's current board is made up of four white members and one African-American.
Latinos, who make up about 58 percent of the state's uninsured population, only comprised 28 percent of the exchange's total enrollment.
Not enough representatives who spoke Spanish and poor customer service were partly responsible for the low numbers. Reports showed that a majority of calls to the Covered California hotline were abandoned and less than one percent of calls were answered within 30 seconds.
Many enrollment materials were not translated in a timely manner, making it difficult for non-English speakers to get the information they needed.
Torres believes that many of these problems could have been prevented if the board had more diverse expertise and engaged in better oversight of the organization's operations and contracting.
"Diversifying Covered California's board ... is a step in the right direction to solving many of the problems that have created obstacles for consumers and families who are trying so hard right now to get health coverage," Torres said in a prepared statement.
While the bill does not guarantee a Latino will be appointed to the board, the governor's signature "is an encouraging sign that the administration is dedicated to diversifying" the exchange's board of directors, Xavier Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, said in a prepared statement.
Contact Tracy Seipel at 408-920-5343. Follow her at Twitter.com/taseipel.