Covered California’s Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Jessica Altman as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Altman currently serves as the insurance commissioner for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, where she is charged with regulating the Commonwealth’s insurance marketplace, protecting consumers and ensuring their health insurance needs are met. She will join Covered California with a wealth of experience concerning the Affordable Care Act, having played key roles in the Obama administration during the early establishment and implementation of the law, and as the chair of the Pennsylvania Health Insurance Exchange Authority, where she led the establishment of Pennsylvania’s state-based marketplace.
Altman’s appointment follows the September 2021 announcement that Peter V. Lee, Covered California’s first executive director, would be leaving after more than a decade of leading the marketplace. Covered California’s board, chaired by California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, undertook a national search for Lee’s replacement. After a rigorous recruitment process, Altman was selected and will step in as Covered California’s new CEO in early March.
“We have made tremendous progress in California and across the nation as a result of Peter’s vision, passion and leadership — and because of the great team he has brought together and our state’s commitment to work together on behalf of all Californians,” said Ghaly. “That work has improved the lives of millions of Californians and meant that Covered California has served as a national proving ground. Jessica is an impressive leader with significant experience with the Affordable Care Act, marketplaces and fighting for consumers. We look forward to her taking the helm of a solid, dedicated team, and the board is excited about the work she will do to carry forward and build on Covered California’s successes.”
Altman’s experience with the Affordable Care Act, health insurance and marketplaces runs deep. As Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner, she regulates the state’s insurance market — the fifth largest in the nation — championing consumer protection and helping to make the state a national leader in the enforcement of mental health parity laws and fighting the opioid crisis. With her knowledge and experience with the Affordable Care Act, Altman has worked to drive down Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate to the lowest in state history.
One of Altman’s signature accomplishments is the establishment of Pennsylvania’s state-based marketplace, “Pennie,” which began offering coverage at the start of 2021. Prior to the launch of Pennie, Pennsylvania offered coverage through the federally facilitated marketplace. Altman initiated and led the transition to Pennie, allowing the state to better serve Pennsylvanians, resulting in increased enrollment and a decrease in premiums during its first year of operation.
“I could not be more honored to accept the position as Covered California’s next CEO,” said Altman. “Under Peter’s leadership, Covered California became a national model for the Affordable Care Act always putting consumers first and maximizing the role of the marketplace to transform health care. I will miss Pennsylvania and am proud of all that we have accomplished together in the Commonwealth. I am also eager to return home, to get rooted with Covered California and its great team, and to help build on its achievements over the last decade.”
Altman joins Covered California at a time when the marketplace has a record-high 1.8 million enrollees, following the swift implementation of the American Rescue Plan under Lee’s leadership, and record-low rate changes averaging just over 1 percent over the last three years. Covered California is currently working to enact new, nation-leading health plan contracting policies to hold health insurance companies accountable to improving health care quality and equity.
Over Lee’s decade of service, Covered California has served millions of Californians, become the largest state-based marketplace in the nation, and established itself as a leader in both state and federal health care policies. California has had the largest drop in the uninsured rate of any state in the nation; maintained stable, healthy enrollment due to extensive year-over-year investments in marketing and outreach and consumer-centric policies; set standard patient-centered benefit designs improving consumer access to care; and held health insurance companies accountable to high standards of accessible, quality care by enrollees.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to be a part of the Covered California team, and I am grateful to have been a part of something that has contributed to providing something so special for California and the nation,” Lee said. “Jessica is coming into an organization that is in great shape, with a solid foundation to build on as we enter its next chapter. There is still a lot of work to do in the pursuit of universal coverage and improved access to quality care, and I am confident that Jessica and the entire team at Covered California will continue to deliver on the organization’s mission.”
Altman grew up in Menlo Park and is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Altman will begin her tenure with Covered California on March 7, 2022.