The board of Covered California has agreed to hire Jessica Altman — the Pennsylvania insurance commissioner — to succeed Peter Lee as CEO.
Lee, the outgoing Covered California CEO, has been leading the public health insurance exchange for more than 10 years and helped oversee the launch of its website in late 2013.
Lee announced plans in September to leave his post in early 2022. The exchange now says he’ll likely leave in early March.
Altman, who is 33, has been Pennsylvania’s top insurance regulator since 2017. Part of her job involved serving as the chair of the Pennsylvania Health Insurance Exchange Authority and setting up Pennie, Pennsylvania’s state-run Affordable Care Act public exchange program.
The Second-Biggest ACA Exchange
Covered California is the state-run Affordable Care Act public exchange for California.
An ACA exchange program is supposed to be a web-based health insurance supermarket. It helps shoppers use federal subsidies to pay for coverage from private insurers.
Covered California is the biggest state-run ACA exchange. The only bigger ACA exchange organization is the Department of Health and Human Services’ multistate HealthCare.gov program.
HealthCare.gov administers health coverage enrollment for 10 million people.
Covered California administers health coverage enrollment for 1.8 million people. Based on the share prices of for-profit health insurance sales websites, it might have a market value of about $500 million to $1 billion.
As Covered California CEO, Altman will earn $450,000 per year, exchange representatives said.
Peter Lee is a lawyer who came to Covered California after running state and national health policy programs, and then working for two years in Washington at HHS.
Despite his lack of experience working as a health insurance agent or broker, Lee has repeatedly emphasized the importance of paying commissions to agents, communicating with agents and investing in marketing support.
Lee has said that the Covered California gets about half of its sales from agents, brokers and web brokers.
Jessica Altman grew in Menlo Park, California, and is the daughter of Drew Altman, the president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The foundation runs an independent health policy research program.
Altman earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in 2010.
From 2010 through 2013, she worked for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, the arm of the Department of Health and Human Services that set up the Affordable Care Act public exchange system.
Altman then earned a master’s degree from Harvard. In 2015, after getting the degree, she took a staff job in the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. Two years later, Gov. Tom Wolf appointed her to take over from Teresa Miller as the state’s insurance commissioner.
In addition to serving as Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner and overseeing Pennie, Altman has been chair of the Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Wolf, a Democrat, has said that Mike Humphreys, the Pennsylvania department’s chief of staff, will become acting insurance commissioner once Altman leaves.
Senior Health Insurance of Pennsylvania
Still another of Altman’s roles has been as rehabilitator of Senior Health Insurance of Pennsylvania, or SHIP, an insolvent long-term care issuer.
Altman has won court approval for a proposal to rehabilitate the insurer, rather than liquidating it and having state guaranty funds take responsibility for the insureds’ benefits.
Insurance regulators in 30 states are trying to block Altman’s proposal from taking effect. Ray Farmer, the South Carolina insurance director and former president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, has said that if Altman’s SHIP rehabilitation plan were implemented, the results would be a “tragic injustice for our SHIP policyholders.”
Altman has said in a court filing that the 30 regulators have failed to provide support for claims that the rehabilitation plan would cause “chaos and confusion.”
Altman has also argued that 96% of the SHIP policies that are still in force were written in Pennsylvania, California, Florida, Illinois and Texas, and that regulators in those states have not opposed the rehabilitation plan.
Louisiana regulators recently obtained a temporary injunction against implementation of the rehabilitation plan from a state court.
Jim Donelon, Louisiana’s commissioner, said he believes Altman’s rehabilitation plan would keep insureds from getting access to guaranty fund protection.