“I have been privileged and honored that the governor and the lieutenant governor have given me the opportunity to serve and this is another opportunity that comes with a lot of responsibility,” said Reed, who also chairs the Senate Health Committee.
Reed is one of 14 members from the Alabama Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission, created by an executive order signed by Gov. Robert Bentley on Thursday. In addition to state lawmakers, the commission will include representatives from the business community as well as health care and insurance providers.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” requires each state to set up a health care exchange by 2014 or face intervention from the federal government.
Health care exchanges typically serve uninsured or underinsured citizens. Rather than searching for health insurance on their own, the exchange offers its clients a resource to shop around for the best plan. And by offering health insurance providers a large pool of potential customers, the exchanges can spread the risk among policy holders. With the program, those struggling to afford health insurance will have a better chance of accessing the same rates as employees of large corporations.
Reed said the governor hopes the exchange will be as valuable a resource to the underinsured as it will be to those with no insurance.
Reed said Alabama residents who qualify for the program will be given vouchers to select their insurance in the exchange. However, he said it is too soon in the planning process to speak specifically about the program or who will qualify for it.
The Alabama Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission will examine the resources needed for the program as well as its effect on insurance markets, health care providers and state health programs like Medicaid.
The commission will also recommend which entity, whether a state agency or non-profit group, will house the exchange and suggest the make-up of the program’s governing body.
Reed said the commission’s focus will be complying with the federal government’s standards for the exchange.
“We need to do all we can to make sure we control the process and not allow federal mandates to be imposed on us,” he said.
Alabama Medicaid Director Bob Mullins Jr., a member of the commission, said in a press release that his agency’s ability to pull federal funds will depend on how well the state complies with federal guidelines for the exchange. He said this becomes particularly important considering recent health care reform legislation will increase the number of Alabamians covered by Medicaid.
Reed said the members of the commission will get feedback from every industry that will be affected by the new program.
“We’re going to be consulting with all those groups to understand how it would best work,” he said.
The commission must present its recommendations to the governor by Dec. 1.