November 30, 2011 | last updated June 4, 2012 11:21 am

CT group pushes health exchange shakeup

Kevin Galvin, owner, Connecticut Commercial Maintenance Inc., Hartford

A Connecticut small business organization is asking federal officials for help in its push for the removal of retired health insurance executives from the state's health insurance exchange board and the expansion of representation for consumers and small businesses.

The group, Small Businesses for a Healthy Connecticut, is headed by Hartford small business owner and commercial health care advocate Kevin Galvin.

It has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius asking her agency for help "in addressing the problematic composition of Connecticut's Health Insurance Exchange Board which has over-representation by insurance industry interests and under-representation by individual and small business consumers."

In the letter, Galvin said he and other consumer advocates have objected to the lack of small business and consumer representation on the board and have appealed to legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, since August, without success. Galvin seeks to replace those members or add consumer and small business members.

Galvin wrote that the insurance industry influence violates the spirit and the letter of state and federal laws creating the exchange, and jeopardizes its success.

Keith Stover, a lobbyist for the state's insurance industry, said he disagrees with that assessment.

"I think there is a puzzling desire on the part of these groups funded by the Universal Health Care Foundation to derail Connecticut's progress on reform," Stover said in a written statement. "In fact, the Exchange Board appointments made by the diverse group of leaders demonstrate a seriousness of purpose about the practical implementation of reform. To a person, the Board is made up of people with real expertise, demonstrated concern about and sensitivity to consumer issues and to the needs and desires of purchasers."

The exchange board is part of a quasi-public agency that will work to create Connecticut's health insurance exchange by 2014, as required under the Affordable Care Act.

The exchange will essentially be an online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to obtain coverage from an array of insurers competing for consumers. The federal government will require participating health plans to meet certain benefit standards and also provide ratings on health plan quality.

But states have a lot of freedom in choosing how they want to operate the exchange, and the board will have a lot of influence over how Connecticut's version will operate.

Consumer advocates have been critical of the makeup of the board, particularly the appointment of former insurance executives including former Connecticare CEO Mickey Herbert and Mary Fox, who is the former senior vice president for Aetna Product Group.

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