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Tuesday, May 21, 2013 2:21 PM

What Is California Attempting to Hide?

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An interesting article on a recently passed law in California came my way today regarding Obamacare secrecy in California.

Please consider California exchange granted secrecy.

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.

An Associated Press review of the 16 other states that have opted for state-run marketplaces shows the California agency was given powers that are the most restrictive in what information is required to be made public.

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. "Except for the portion of a contract that contains the rates of payment, contracts entered into pursuant to this title shall be open to inspection one year after their effective dates," reads the code specifying what exchange records are exempt from public disclosure.

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.
So what does California have to hide? More specifically what do the legislators (especially California Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles) have to hide? Contracts awarded to the non-low bidder? Contracts awarded to friends and family of legislators? Kickbacks?

With $458 million on outside vendors by the end of 2014, there are plenty of non-legitimate reasons for wanting to keep everything a secret.

With all the secrecy it's hard to say precisely who is covering up for whom, or why, but one thing is crystal clear: This secrecy is good for someone on the take and bad for taxpayers.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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