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The state's new health benefit marketplace, an instrumental arm of the 2010 federal health care overhaul, will announce today that it has tapped an Obama administration official as its first executive director.

Peter V. Lee, deputy director for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will assume the California Health Benefit Exchange job on Oct. 17, 2011.

He will receive a salary of $250,000, more than the $173,987 that Gov. Jerry Brown receives.

Lee previously served from 2000 to 2008 as executive director and CEO of the Pacific Business Group on Health, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that seeks to leverage employer health care purchasing power. That role is similar to one that the exchange is expected to play on behalf of individuals and small businesses.

The California Health Benefit Exchange announced earlier this month that it had received a $39 million federal grant to lay groundwork over the next year. Under the 2010 federal health care law, state exchanges will negotiate with health plans to provide subsidized benefits to low- and middle-income individuals, as well as small businesses. The California program is expected to begin enrolling Californians in late 2013, with benefits starting in 2014.

The law is subject to legal challenge, principally over whether it is constitutional for the federal government to require individuals to carry health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to eventually decide the matter.



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