New law forces Covered California to let public view contracts

Covered California kickoff event group shot

Stephanie O'Neill

Mayor Eric Garcetti poses with celebrants at a kick off event for Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange.

Covering California series icon 2013

Governor Jerry Brown has this week signed legislation that removes a shield of secrecy around Covered California, the state-run health insurance marketplace.

The new law removes provisions, uncovered earlier this year by the Associated Press, that have allowed Covered California to conduct its business without public scrutiny or legislative oversight.  

The law empowers the Legislative Audit Committee to inspect all Covered California contracts. It also says Covered California's contracts for marketing, public relations, consulting and other similar services must be open to  public inspection.

"All agencies of California State government should be subject to the California State Public Records Act," says State Senator Bill Emmerson (R-Redlands), author of the measure. " I think the public deserves the right to know what are in these contracts."

The law does leave in place some disclosure restrictions regarding the rates charged by health insurance firms. Covered California can shield rate information from public inspection for a year after a contract is signed. 

Emmerson says Covered California officials assure him that while the law  does not  take effect until January 1st, 2014,  the agency will begin complying with it immediately. 

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