Introductory remarks for the Chairman of the Committee
By Beneitha Trayne

"Our intent is to proceed..."

I want to welcome you to our round table discussion this morning. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to join us here today. I promise we will not abuse your time; if we finish before we are scheduled to leave, we will simply leave earlier.

Today's meeting is one of a series of meetings we will be holding over the next several weeks with anyone who may be affected by the proposed changes.

The purpose of these meetings is threefold: (1) We want to present to you the results of our recent survey. (2) We want to include you in discussions about adjusting the levels of risk borne by our carriers. (3) And we want to begin to work with you to resolve critical policy concerns as the work of the committee continues.

The committee is a neutral gatherer of information. Its role is to provide objective, timely analysis for those who make decisions and for those who govern our actions. Today's meeting is part of a larger process we are using to help us (and them) more fully understand the effects of recent changes in policy.

In the last few years, those who decide on our behalf have made a number of landmark decisions, decisions which resulted in changes that affected each of us. These changes were indeed a boon as they helped thousands gain access to our system. But questions have been raised about the consequences of these changes and about their possible effect on the integrity of our overall structure.

We will be working to assure that any further changes conform to the overall vision that has been set forth for us. Additionally, we are preparing a major report for next year that will provide a detailed overview of our structure, and your comments and questions will be taken into account as we develop that report.

Our intent is to proceed with the study as originally planned. We are not here to identify good guys and bad guys, but instead to take a hard, unblinking look at what is and is not working in our system. Our goal is to identify the TRENDS and PATTERNS that will tell us where to go from here.

The first thing on our agenda today is to review the results of our recent survey. Our director of policy and planning will lead you through our methodology and show you what we found. These data were presented to the committee at its meeting in December, and we wanted to be sure you had an opportunity to respond to them as well.

The data are fascinating and clearly useful, but they do contain some important limitations of which you should be aware. First of all, last year's information has been projected forward from the first six months of that year. We will be working to get updated information to you at the earliest opportunity; meanwhile, all numbers should be viewed as VERY preliminary.

Second, the data are not comparable in many cases between carriers. One carrier may define small groups differently from another, for example, or make its adjustments on a biennial rather than an annual basis. As our study proceeds, we will make every effort to provide comparable data.

Finally, I want to stress that we have NOT reached conclusions from these data. We are looking at patterns and asking questions for further study. No decisions have been made. We are genuinely interested in your opinions and your ideas.

After we review the data, we will present a report on risk adjustment mechanisms that are being used elsewhere.

Such risk adjustment may be an appropriate way of spreading the impact of changes among all carriers. No decision on whether risk adjustment is right for us has yet been made, but if we were to create such a mechanism, what should it look like? What are the benefits and pitfalls of various options? What else might we consider?

Please feel free to speak up at any point. Ask questions, raise concerns, point out insights or possibilities that occur to you as we proceed. We appreciate your interest in our work. Again, thank you for joining us.