Testimony of Jodi Kwarciany at the FY 2018 Performance Oversight Hearing for the Health Benefit Exchange Authority

Chairman Gray and other members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Jodi Kwarciany and I am a Policy Analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on policies that affect low- and moderate-income residents.

I am here today to applaud and thank the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority for their impressive work over the past year in consumer and stakeholder engagement, extensive consumer outreach and assistance strategies, and strategic partnerships that have increased access to health insurance in the District.

Consumer and Stakeholder Engagement

Since its creation, HBX has worked to create an inclusive and transparent budget process. This year, the exchange held a public forum on its Fiscal Year 2018 budget request, and staff took community suggestions on funding for consumer assistance, outreach, and plan management. We hope that DC Health Link continues this practice.

Consumer Outreach and Assistance Strategies

DC Health Link staff have also worked to provide creative outreach across District communities to ensure that all consumers are aware of their available options. This includes hosting a “Care-a-Van” to meet residents across the District, hanging out in barbershops and laundromats, hosting panel discussions with leaders from local communities, and simply going door-to-door.

HBX takes consumer choice seriously, and has also worked to develop online support tools so that individuals and small businesses using DC Health Link have an easy and transparent way to compare coverage prices and options that fit their budget. These efforts were recently recognized by the Clear Choices Campaign, a multi-stakeholder advocacy campaign representing patients, providers, insurers, employers, and life science companies. In its annual report card for state-based marketplace websites and the federal Healthcare.Gov, DC Health Link was one of just three exchanges that offer all three decision-support tools considered the gold standard of informed consumer choice: an out-of-pocket cost calculator, an integrated provider directory, and an integrated drug directory. Overall, DC Health Link was awarded the highest score.

Strategic Partnerships

HBX has long worked to leverage new partnerships. HBX teamed up with Consumers’ Checkbook to offer its Health Plan Comparison Tool, and more recently, agreed to a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Massachusetts Health Connector, where Massachusetts will use DC Health Link’s technology platform for their online health insurance marketplace for small businesses. Through this agreement, DC Health Link will provide operational support for the Massachusetts Health Connecter while continuing to enhance their online services and make new technology investments, and sharing in the costs with Massachusetts. Given that Massachusetts is a widely recognized leader in health care innovation, their choice to leverage DC Health Link’s online tools and technology enhancements speaks to the high quality of our local marketplace.

Increasing Access to Health Insurance

HBX has had impressive results in coverage gains since its creation and during the most recent enrollment period.

This past season, DC Health Link was able to offer 20 different private health insurance options for residents and their families on the individual market, and 151 options for small businesses through SHOP, ultimately enrolling 18,000 people in the individual market and nearly 65,000 through the SHOP. Since its creation in 2013, DC Health Link has served altogether nearly 300,000 individuals, including 180,000 residents that have been determined eligible for Medicaid.

The marketplace also continues to attract new customers. During the most recent open enrollment, 31 percent of the covered lives were new customers, an increase from the previous year. We also know that for every four individuals buying insurance on the marketplace, one was previously uninsured.

Finally, HBX has been equally instrumental in understanding, analyzing, and communicating the political uncertainty around Affordable Care Act repeal. At a time when many people across the country were unsure about coverage, DC Health Link sent a clear message to customers that quality, affordable health plans would continue to be available. As repeal and replacement efforts progress, it is my hope that HBX, along with other impacted local agencies, will continue working together to develop District-wide solutions.

In closing, there’s a reason why District policymakers built a state-based marketplace to help expand coverage, and HBX has proven that it was a smart choice. DC Health Link has upheld the District’s reputation as a national leader in providing quality and affordable health care to all of its residents, and we should celebrate its success in lowering our rate of uninsured.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I am happy to take any questions.