Gov. Bentley creates health insurance exchange study commission

Governor Robert Bentley signed an executive order Thursday to create the Alabama Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission. The commission will study and make recommendations on the most effective way for the state to move forward with the establishment of the Alabama Health Benefits Exchange.

By 2014, Alabama must be ready to implement the major provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including the establishment of a health insurance exchange to provide an online market place to evaluate health insurance options and apply for coverage.

"My vision for a health insurance exchange started before federal health care reform. The Alabama Insurance Exchange should enable us to better manage the cost of health care while also providing Alabamians with more choices for health insurance coverage," said Governor Robert Bentley. "I am creating this commission today to study and develop the basis for the Alabama Exchange that will make Alabama compliant with federal health care reform and also create the best type of insurance exchange for the purchase and sale of health insurance."

The commission must address the type of entity that should house the insurance exchange, the make-up of its governing board, an analysis of resources needed for operating and sustaining the Alabama Exchange, the specific functions of the Exchange, and the effects of the interactions between the Alabama Exchange and relevant insurance markets, existing health programs and agencies like Medicaid and Public Health.

The Commission will consist of 14 members including the Chairman of the House and Senate Health Committees, medicaid commissioner, insurance commissioner, and state finance director.

"Medicaid will be redefined to cover a much broader segment of the populations than it has traditionally done in the past," added Alabama Medicaid Agency Director Dr. R. Bob Mullins, Jr.  "We cannot afford to fall behind on the development of a health benefits exchange since our ability to pull down federal funds for a health information network is closely tied to compliance with the development of the insurance exchange."

The commission has until December 1, 2011, to present its recommendations to the governor.