- Associated Press - Thursday, June 19, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A bill sent to the governor’s office on Thursday responds to a problematic rollout of health care reform in California by diversifying the board tasked with overseeing the state health insurance exchange.

SB972 passed the Assembly on a 68-2 vote Thursday. Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, says her bill responds to consumer complaints of long waits, confusing website materials and low minority enrollment on the Covered California exchange.

State exchanges were created under the federal health act to sell insurance plans to residents who don’t have insurance through a government program or an employer.

Torres’ bill broadens the qualifications for the five-member Covered California board, currently stacked with health care and insurance administrators. It allows informational technology experts, health insurance marketers and enrollment counselors skilled in reaching out to poor and minority Californians to join.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, said research backs up a more diverse board improving an organization’s performance.

The move is welcomed by Latino health advocates, who say board expertise in reaching their communities is essential to stopping the underrepresentation of Latinos on the exchange. A May report by the Public Policy Institute of California found about four times as many Latinos were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act took effect than enrolled in Covered California and Medi-Cal.

Covered California responded to initially low Latino enrollment with a $4.5 million marketing campaign to target Spanish-speaking residents.

The California Association of Health Underwriters supported the bill, saying board members with technology experience would help resolve problems with the exchange’s Web portal.

The bill originally sought to expand the board to seven members, but that provision was removed after opposition from lawmakers.

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