And they’re off…

Posted September, 14 2012 by arianne

The Western New York Health Exchange Regional Advisory Committee convened yesterday afternoon, the first of five committees that will meet this month. The agenda and presentation from the first meeting will remain the same for the other regional meetings held over the next couple of weeks. Guest Blogger, Natalie Luczkowiak, Community Health Advocate with the Public Policy and Education Fund, attended the meeting in person and gives her account.

The Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) meeting is led by Donna Frescatore and Sherry Tomasky of the Department of Health, and Ben Lawsky and Troy Oechsner of the Department of Finance.  There are 19 Western New York RAC members present including advocates, brokers, chambers of commerce, business owners and union representatives.  There are 8 others present as observers.

The State starts off the meeting with a presentation that provides important information the RAC needs in order to assist in making statewide life-changing decisions regarding the Health Benefit Exchange.  The Exchange Organizational Chart, the basic framework of the health administration for New York, is an important component of the presentation.  Committee members are reminded of their role, of how their uniqueness and expertise will bring about needed answers.

The discussion begins with the question of whether the individual and small group markets should be merged.  Will merging or non-merging affect cost?  Either way, premiums for individuals and small businesses will go down.  How many lives are covered between the two?  Donna Frescatore states 58,000 less insured if the markets are not merged.

The RAC addresses the role of Brokers. Should they continue to only sell to small businesses?  Who should compensate brokers, the Exchange or insurers?  Should they be available through the Exchange?  No one disagrees with the value and expertise brokers bring in helping small businesses, but the payment issue will need to be resolved.

As for Third Party Assistors, such as Facilitated Enrollers and Community Health Advocates, everyone agrees of their worth and that grants should continue to non-profits and their advocacy.  Donna Frescatore elaborates on the Community Health Advocates, New York’s Consumer Assistance Program.

The RAC discussed many other topics, which are likely to arise at the other upcoming RAC meetings. Everyone at the meeting was so attentive and interested in making the right decisions. Yet, January 2014 is closer than we think, and there is a lot of work to be done!

Questions specific to the RAC, can be sent to