A half a billion here and half a billion there and at some point, California residents will want to know where the money is going. Fortunately California has an unbreakable union-welfare majority so that shouldn’t be a problem.
A California law that created an agency to oversee national health care reforms granted it broad authority to conceal spending on the contractors that will perform most of its functions, potentially shielding the public from seeing how hundreds of millions of dollars are spent.
The degree of secrecy afforded Covered California appears unique among states attempting to establish their own health insurance exchanges under President Barack Obama’s signature health law.
But California is pretty unique too.
It’s routine in government to keep bids secret until contracts are awarded, so one vendor does not get an unfair advantage over others. After a bid is awarded, contracts generally become fully public.
In setting up the California exchange, lawmakers gave it the authority to keep all contracts private for a year and the amounts paid secret indefinitely
In essence, lawmakers are saying they need it because they need it, with no details or evidence to support it. The Legislature should have answered the questions, “Why couldn’t the exchange do its job without this secrecy? What’s the worst that could happen?” Francke said.
Exchange spokesman Dana Howard said the agency complies with state law but declined to discuss in detail how it determines what is public and what is not.
“I’m not going to go down item by item, about how it is and what kinds of meetings and what was talked about,” he said.
You’ll have to pass it to find out what’s in it. And then they won’t tell you anyway.
According to agency documents, Covered California plans to spend nearly $458 million on outside vendors by the end of 2014, covering lawyers, consultants, public relations advisers and other functions.
Other exchange records that are allowed to be kept secret include those that reveal recommendations, research, strategy of the board or its staff, or those that provide instructions, advice or training to employees. Minutes of the board meetings also are exempt from disclosure.
California Democrats once again give the people the best government money can buy.