At a suburban Sacramento auditorium normally reserved for tax matters, the new California Health Benefit Exchange board attracted a who's who of health care lobbyists when it convened in April.
Among those represented: Insurers, doctors, drug companies, low-income patients, small businesses, HMOs and information technology firms.
It was a clear indication of the billions of dollars at stake based on how the state builds its new public health insurance marketplace.
"I think people ignore it at their own peril," said Dustin Corcoran, CEO of the California Medical Association, which represents more than 35,000 physicians. "In short order, the exchange is going to be one of the largest insurers in the state."
As part of last year's federal health care overhaul law, the health exchange is expected to help more than 2 million state residents obtain health coverage, starting in 2014. Federal officials awarded California a $39 million initial planning grant last week.