Health Care Exchanges: National Governors Association Advising Six States

The National Governors Association will be helping six states facilitate discussion on the creation of health care exchanges, which are required to be in place nationwide by 2014 as a provision of President Obama's health care.

The group will be working with officials from Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, Utah and Washington to discuss how states should create the exchanges to best provide the "one-stop shopping" for health insurance outlined by Obama.

Krista Drobac, health director of the NGA's Center for Best Practices, said the program grew out of discussion the association had with state officials about the lack of face-to-face communication in state governments. She said officials -- including state Medicaid directors and insurance department executives -- had noted they talk a lot at conferences but do not communicate while they are in state capitols.

"Why don't we offer them being an external catalyst for state officials to get together?" she said.

Drobac said that former New York Medicaid Director Deborah Backrach and Joel Ario from the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight will travel with an NGA staffer to the six states for day-long meetings on health care exchange creation. She said the meetings will include state Medicaid officials, along with other officials from the state health and insurance departments.

During the meetings, Drobac said that Backrach and Ario will help guide the officials through the creation of the health exchanges. She said this will include facilitating conversation among officials on how to work together on interdepartmental initiatives for the creation of the exchanges.

Drobac said the NGA had funding to work with a total of six states and the states were chosen through a competitive application process. As part of the process, she said states had to promise that the relevant state officials would be available to dedicate a full day to the meeting.

This is the second time this month that the NGA has waded into the health care exchange debate. Earlier this month, the association sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius commenting on the department's proposal for states to partner with the federal government to run the health care exchanges.

Drovac said she hope the six state meetings -- which will occur within the next six weeks -- to be a benefit to the states.

"It would be great at the end of the day to know short- and long-term plans," she said of the meetings. "And then the decisions that the governor needs to make are clear."