In the news

The Denver Post
Michael Booth

 A consumer group called for a member of the new state health insurance exchange board to resign Monday, and the author of legislation creating the exchange said she was unhappy with the board's makeup, casting shadows over a first meeting.

Long-anticipated federal rules released Monday call for boards to be dominated by consumer and small-business representatives, a bar Colorado's board doesn't seem to clear.

"I would like to see more consumer representation," said state Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, who co-sponsored legislation for the exchange.

The exchange will be an Internet portal for consumers comparing insurance rates and will funnel hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies to individuals and small businesses if they have trouble finding policies.

The exchange board includes nine members, five appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The majority and minority leaders of the state House and Senate each appointed one member.

The Colorado board includes the heads of three of the largest state health insurers — Anthem Blue Cross, UnitedHealthcare and Rocky Mountain Health Plans; a leader of a mental- health managed-care company; and a fifth, whose information-technology company contracts with the major health insurers.

The last executive, Eric Grossman of TriZetto in Greenwood Village, was asked to resign by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. CoPIRG noted that Grossman recently wrote an article for insurance executives on the "good, bad and ugly" of exchanges and that the "bad" meant insurers would have to cut costs and increase efficiency.

"The intent of Colorado's health exchange board is to do just that — create a competitive marketplace to increase affordability and choice for Colorado individuals and small employers when shopping for health insurance," said CoPIRG director Danny Katz.

Grossman, appointed by Hickenlooper, said he would defer to state officials on the CoPIRG statement, but he attended Monday's first board meeting as a full member.

State officials said they had no plans to alter the governor's selections for the board.

Boyd and others called for more transparency from the board, saying the heavy presence of insurance and managed care guarantees conflicts of interest in designing the exchange.

"It appears a majority of the board may be conflicted out of voting" on frequent occasions, said Colorado Center on Law and Policy attorney Elisabeth Arenales.

During a public-comment period, Dede de Percin of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative said the board lacks consumer or business influence. Two small-business owners and an advocate for the uninsured are on the panel.

Facilitators hired to help organize the board said conflict-of-interest and transparency issues would be on the Aug. 25 agenda.

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