Covered California Guidelines for Access to Public Records
Californians have a right to access public information maintained by government agencies, including Covered California (also known as the California Health Benefit Exchange or the “Exchange”). That right is provided for in the California Public Records Act and the state constitution, and it includes the right to inspect and copy records of state and local agencies.
As the Legislature stated in enacting the California Public Records Act (PRA), “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.” In the same phrase, the Legislature noted it is “mindful of the right of individuals to privacy.” Covered California’s guidelines for access to public records embodies these principles.
How to Make a Public Records Act Request. To ensure accuracy in responding to a request for public records, the Exchange encourages all requests to be submitted in writing or by electronic mail. However, requests can be made orally, by telephone or in person at a public counter in one of our offices. When requests are made orally, the Exchange may confirm the request in writing to ensure it has correctly understood the request. Please direct all requests as follows:
By U.S. mail:
Covered California Office of Legal Affairs
Attn: PRA Request
1601 Exposition Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95815
Or by phone: (916) 228-8707
Or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Records Defined. “Records” include any writing prepared, owned, used or retained by the Exchange in the conduct of its official business. Writings include information recorded or stored on paper, computers, email or audio or visual tapes.
Identifying Records. In order to help the Exchange provide records promptly, requesters should provide specific information about the records they seek. When a record cannot be identified by name, the requester should attempt to be as specific as possible in describing the record, based on its content.
When a request is not sufficiently specific or clear, Exchange staff will help the requester identify the information sought, describe how records are maintained or their possible physical location and provide suggestions on how to overcome practical barriers to disclosure.
Inspection of Public Records. Public records maintained by the Exchange shall be available for inspection during the regular business hours of the Exchange Headquarters, at 1601 Exposition Blvd. in Sacramento. Requesters are not required to give notice in order to inspect public records at the Exchange Headquarters office during normal business hours. However, if a request requires the retrieval, review or redaction of records, a mutually agreeable time should be established for inspection of records. While some records can be provided relatively quickly, others may take more time because the records must be located, reviewed for exemption or withheld or redacted accordingly and copied. Requesters are encouraged to search the Exchange website where numerous records are made public: www.coveredca.com. In order to prevent records from being lost, damaged or destroyed during an inspection, Exchange employees may determine the location of, and may monitor, the inspection. Records will not be removed from the possession of the Exchange during inspection.
Processing Requests for Copies of Records. When a copy of a record is requested, and the record cannot be produced immediately, the Exchange will determine within 10 days after the date of receipt of the request, whether it will comply with the request and shall promptly inform the requester of its decision and its reasons for the decision. The initial 10-day period may be extended for up to 14 days if the Exchange needs to communicate with field offices, locate and inspect voluminous records, or consult with other divisions or agencies. By the end of this 14 day period, the Exchange will notify the requester if and when the records will be produced. If some or all of the records requested cannot be released because they are considered confidential under the law or are subject to another legally permissible exemption, the Exchange will generally inform the requester what type of records they are and why they are being withheld or redacted and will provide an estimated time regarding how long it will take to make those determinations. Whenever possible, the Exchange will provide records at the time the determination is made to disclose them.
Fees. There is no charge to inspect records. There is no charge for records copied using equipment you bring to the Exchange. The Exchange can make copies for you if it is practicable to do so. If the Exchange makes copies, the fee is 10 cents ($0.10) per page. Copies of electronic records put onto a CD or DVD cost one dollar ($1.00) for each CD or DVD. The Exchange does not charge for first class mailing costs unless the total cost of responding to a request (duplication and mailing) exceeds $5.00. Any special handling or mailing costs other than US mail or costs greater than $5.00 must be received by the Exchange in advance of fulfilling the request. Additional fees may be assessed if retrieval of public records requires programming to extract information stored electronically.
Exemptions: The Exchange will provide access to all public records upon request unless the law provides an exemption from mandatory disclosure. In addition to the enumerated exemptions contained in the PRA, Exchange records that fall within the express exemptions contained in Government Code Section 100508 will be withheld including records that reveal:
- The deliberative processes, discussions, communications or any other portions of the negotiations with entities contracting or seeking to contract with the Exchange, entities with which the Exchange is considering a contract, or entities with which the Exchange is considering or enters into any other arrangement under which the Exchange provides, receives or arranges services or reimbursement.
Examples of records exempt from mandatory disclosure under the PRA include: certain personnel records, investigative reports, drafts, confidential legal advice, records prepared in connection with pending litigation, information security records and information that must be kept confidential pursuant to other state or federal statutes including but not limited to records containing private information or personal health information.
Identification of Requesters. Exchange staff shall not demand that persons requesting to inspect records provide their identification, or the reasons for wanting to inspect records. Persons wishing to enter secured parts of the Exchange buildings must comply with the Exchange’s security protocol, including providing identification.
For more information about open government and public records access, visit the Attorney General’s website at www.ag.ca.gov. For public records of Covered California on our website, please visit www.coveredca.com.
Updated July 2016.