By Bobby Caina Calvan
Published: Thursday, Sep. 30, 2010 – 5:58 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 30, 2010 – 8:19 pm

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed two key health bills that make California the first in the nation to begin establishing its own health insurance exchange – a key component of the federal health overhaul law intended to widen access to health coverage among the country’s millions of uninsured.

“For national reform to succeed, it will be up to the states to make it work, and California is moving forward on reforms that will provide affordable and quality health care insurance,” the governor said in a statement.

The bills, Senate Bill 900 and Assembly Bill 1602, would establish the California Health Benefit Exchange and an independent, five-member oversight board that will be tasked with defining how the exchange would operate, in time for the federal deadline of January 2014.

At least 2 million Californians could be eligible to immediately buy insurance from the exchange once it is open for business. The exchange would help funnel billions of dollars in subsidies to help Californians and small businesses obtain health coverage.

The governor’s office is expected to hold a signing ceremony in Los Angeles on Friday.

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