Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Joint exchange committees voting down active purchasing, cost control
While the votes are reportedly still coming in, it appears that the Consumer and QHP Insurance Exchange committees have voted against active purchasing. With active purchasing, other state exchanges are using the power of numbers, as large employers do, to negotiate better premiums, lower costs and better coverage for their members. MA has saved millions for consumers in their state with active purchasing. While the committees’ language includes a symbolic nod to possible future negotiation, it is far weaker than current state law. Reportedly, through a procedural maneuver, Exchange staff and committee co-chairs agreed to link all the proposals in one vote. Providers on the committees were picked off by adding back requirements that their organizations be included in network standards. Reportedly consumers lost votes we would have had if active purchasing had had a fair vote. All meetings this week and negotiations over language were conducted in secret. A critical negotiation session happened by conference call, but the public was not allowed to listen in. (The public was told to come to the LOB, from 6 to 7pm Monday to hear the call. However the building closes at 5:30.) This secrecy would not be allowed if the Exchange was part of state government – there are laws about that. But as a quasi-public entity, they can make their own rules. It is ironic as 50% of the Board members are public officials (71% if you count spouses and retirees), and all their millions in funding come from taxpayers. Exchange staff also incorrectly argued that they had to have this issue decided in time to release the health plan solicitation next month. However, state RFPs rarely release specifics on how they will score bids with the RFP release. Why would you? Now the HMOs know that as they prepare their premium bids, that the sky is the limit. We will post the vote tally as soon as we get it.