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I’ve been in DC for a fascinating conference for state-based advocates on how we can influence and support health reform at home. First, it is an incredible opportunity to connect (and reconnect) with advocates from across the states, get ideas, share stories and learn what is really happening. For example, Utah’s much publicized insurance exchange is not working and they have problems getting accurate information from their state agencies as well. We’ve heard from leaders at CMS and the new Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. We’ve heard from strategists, think tanks, state officials, advocates, and communications experts. We’ve heard from states with great success reducing Medicaid spending, without disturbing services. We’ve heard a lot about how to build insurance exchanges, market reforms inside and outside the exchange, preventing adverse selection, linking Medicaid to the exchanges, benefit design, , setting up selective contracting processes with integrity, transparency and to get the best price for consumers in the exchange. We’ve also heard about hospital community benefit requirements. The Obama administration is eager to hear from advocates – we heard over and over that they know the rubber is hitting the road in states and they want to support us in making this work (including giving us personal email addresses).

Families USA, Community Catalyst, the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put together an exceptional conference. I usually only learn one or two new things on most trips – I am walking away from this one with a full notebook of ideas.

Wednesday I also visited with health staff in some of CT’s Congressional offices. People were generally reassuring. While there will be attempts to repeal the Accountable Care Act, they won’t succeed. There will also be attempts to defund and repeal parts of the Act, staff also felt that they would largely fail as well. I felt much better.
Ellen Andrews