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Last week I was at a meeting where we were joined by Joel Ario, the HHS official who is overseeing implementation of the new Health Insurance Exchanges, the vehicle that is expected to provide coverage  for close to 30 million Americans in 2014.  We had a chance to ask him questions and hear from him on key ways state advocates could participate in the conversations happening in their states around establishing exchanges.  He reminded us that the Exchange Planning Grants (48 of 50 states were awarded one) had to include a plan that included holding meetings with stakeholders – a key component of what they were going to be evaluated on by HHS.

In many states these meetings are happening now and it’s important for those representing the interests of children and families to participate so they can be seen and heard in this process. You can find out about these meetings in a couple of places. The plan for the meetings should be included in the Exchange Planning Grant proposals that were submitted to HHS.  In addition, it’s likely that information is available somewhere on the website for the agency overseeing the Exchange implementation – either the Governor’s Office, the Insurance Commissioner’s Office or the Medicaid agency.

I have heard from at least one state that they’ve had difficulty finding out not only when these meetings are, but also getting hold of the state’s exchange planning grant. Five states have their exchange planning grants posted on NASHP’s State Refor(u)m.   But beyond that, Mr. Ario suggested that if you are having difficulty, it’s worth reminding those in these key state agencies that HHS will be evaluating them on how they solicit stakeholder input – something that’s difficult to demonstrate if stakeholders can’t find out when and where these meetings are taking place.