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Health Benefit Exchange and Health Reform Communications Summit for DC Government Agencies and Community Stakeholders

The HBX and Health reform Communications Summit was held on February 12, 2013, 8:30am to 4:30pm, at the Mt. Vernon Place Conference Center, 900 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. Designed to begin marshaling the resources of DC government agencies, industry partners and community stakeholders in developing strategies to reach DC residents with consistent and effective messages about their new rights and responsibilities in enrolling in high-quality, affordable health plan, the Summit was attended by more than 280 stakeholders.

The specific Summit objectives were:

  • To discuss and identify strategies to reach DC residents with information about their rights and responsibilities in obtaining health coverage through the Health Benefit Exchange and about changes to Medicaid and other public programs
  • To identify how stakeholders can help us reach our diverse communities
  • To identify ways government agencies can work together with community stakeholders to achieve the critical goals of the Exchange - enrollment of all eligible residents in high-quality, affordable coverage.

Input from stakeholders is an important component towards the success of implementing the District’s Health Benefit Exchange. Thus, the Summit not only addressed health reform and the Exchange enrollment strategies from a consumer perspective, but also the role of key stakeholders in educating District residents about health reform as well as how best to communicate health reform and enrollment messages to the city’s diverse audiences. Presentations will include an overview of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), changes to Medicaid, and access to the Exchange.

Summit Participants

More than 300 government, community and industry stakeholders registered for and attended the Communications Summit.

The participants hailed from every ward in the city and represented professional fields ranging from local and federal government and health care, to insurance, law, community outreach and advocacy, education, consultancy and religion, to name a few. The position titles ranged from company CEOs, COOs, presidents and directors to attorneys, legislative / policy analysts, community relations specialists, palliative care consultants, pastors, government relations specialists, lobbyists, grant managers, and communications professionals. There was diverse representation!

Summit Evaluations

Each registered participant is encouraged to complete the Summit Evaluation form. The results of the evaluations will be included in the final report of recommendations received from the small group discussions. 

Summary of Pre-Summit Survey Questions

  • Quite a number of questions regarding coverage for pre-existing conditions. Key points to make:
    • People with pre-ex CANNOT be denied coverage OR charged any more than anyone else.
    • The Essential Benefits Package makes sure that people with pre-ex conditions will have coverage for the care they need to stay well
    • Note, several questions specifically mentioned HIV/AIDS so we might want to mention it as an example
  • Several questions about the impact of the Exchange on small businesses.  Key points to make:
    • Today, small businesses pay an average of 18% more for coverage than their larger competitors and often get fewer benefits.
    • Small businesses with 50 and fewer employees are NOT required to offer insurance. Those that do can obtain coverage for their workers in the Exchange
    • The exchange will provide small businesses with MORE choices, will require insurers to publish their prices/premiums online where you can see and compare them, will cover a more comprehensive benefit package, and will ensure stability in premiums year to year (many small companies face double digit premium increases year after year).
    • Some small businesses are eligible for a tax credit to reduce their costs of coverage. Today, the maximum credit is 35% of premiums. In 2014, it goes up to 50%.
  • Several questions regarding mental health and substance abuse services. Key points:
    • The ACA requires all health plans to cover an essential health benefit package that includes mental health and substance abuse services
    • We have heard a great deal from the community about the need for parity in coverage of these services and treatment of other physical illnesses.
    • The Board will take up policy recommendations on this later this week. Check our website for more information.
  • Many questions on community outreach including “how will we reach people to tell them they have benefits?” and “how will we work with community-based organizations to reach people?” Key points to make:
    • We cannot reach everyone without your help.  It’s that simple. And we must reach everyone.
    • We will be developing a comprehensive outreach plan that will include creation of ad campaigns, development of collateral materials, and on-the-ground outreach. We will need your input on such a plan.
    • We also have access to federal grant funds to provide to community based organizations to help us directly on the ground. We will apply for these funds and will be looking for partners.
  • Several questions ask if we will be ready to go in October.  Key points to make:
    • We are absolutely committed to having the DC Exchange ready for business in October as we begin open enrollment.
    • Now, we are focused on two major tasks: (1) working with vendors and experts in IT to create a portal that will make it as easy as possible for people to review plans, compare them, and make the best choice for them; and (2) making decisions on remaining policy issues so that District residents, businesses, and insurers will know the rules of the game and come forward to participate.
    • We need your help. Community involvement in both these matters is already helping us accelerate our progress.
  • Several questions on how people/organizations can help:
    • Follow us on the web dchbx.com
    • Come to our monthly Board meetings
    • Join one of the working groups helping us with policy issues and operational issues
    • Let us know if you are interested in becoming a partner in our outreach campaign  later this year

Summit Speakers

MOHAMMAD N. AKHTER, M.D., M.H.P., Chairman, DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority Executive Board is the former Director of the DC Department of Health. Prior to joining the Department in January, 2011, Dr. Akhter was a Professor at Howard University College of Medicine and served from 2002-2005 as the Senior Associate Dean for Public and International Health at Howard University College of Medicine.

Dr. Akhter’s other professional positions include serving as the Executive Director of the National Medical Association, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association (APHA) from 1997-2002 and Commissioner of Public Health for the District of Columbia from 1991-1994. He subsequently served as a Senior Advisor in the US Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Health Care Policy and Quality.

A native of Pakistan, Dr. Akhter received his medical degree from the King Edward Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan. He received a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University. He is board certified by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

MILA KOFMAN, J.D., Executive Director of the DC Health Benefit Exchange (HBX) Authority, was appointed to the position by a unanimous vote of the HBX Board of Directors. Kofman is a nationally recognized expert on private health insurance markets and has worked with states and all stakeholders to implement health insurance reforms. Her approach is informed by her hands-on experience as the former Superintendent of Insurance in Maine implementing health insurance reforms, being a former federal regulator working with states to implement HIPAA reforms of the 1990s, studying state-based reform efforts and markets, and working with employer purchasing coalitions seeking to leverage purchasing power for sustainable financing of medical care.

From March 2008 to May 2011 as the Superintendent of Insurance in Maine, Kofman regulated a multi-billion dollar insurance industry, heading an agency with 70+ staff and a multi-million dollar budget. In addition to serving on the Governor’s Steering Committee on health reform implementation in 2010, Kofman served in key leadership positions at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) including Secretary/Treasurer of the northeast zone , member of the NAIC’s Executive Committee, chairperson of the Health Insurance Regulatory Framework Task Force, co-chairperson of the Consumer Information Working Group and a member of the Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee, the Exchanges Working Group, the Executive Committee’s Professional Health Insurance Advisors Task Force, and the Anti-Fraud Task Force. She was also a member of the Life Insurance and Market Regulation committees.

From 2001 to 2008, Kofman was an Associate Research Professor and Project Director at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute and rejoined the faculty at Georgetown University Health Policy Institute in July 2011 as a Research Professor and Project Director. Ms. Kofman was a federal regulator at the US Department of Labor (1997-2001) and was honored with the Labor Secretary’s Exceptional Achievement Award. In 2000, she was appointed Special Assistant to the Senior Health Care Advisor to the President at the White House to work on legislative and regulatory initiatives -- the Patient’s Bill of Rights, long-term care insurance, nursing home reform, and ERISA

Ms. Kofman holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland (summa cum laude).

DANIELLE DAVIS, Director of Communications, Outreach and Training, Maryland Health Connection joined the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE) as the Director of Communications and Outreach in January 2012. She is responsible for developing and implementing a statewide marketing, communications and outreach campaign to educate and inform individuals and small businesses about health insurance options available through Maryland Health Connection. Danielle oversees the training program for the Navigator Program and serves as a spokesperson for the organization.

Prior to joining MHBE, she developed integrated marketing and public relations campaigns for clients and organizations in the healthcare, technology, consumer products and professional services sectors for two decades. Danielle earned a bachelor's degree at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and is currently completing a master's degree at Towson University.

RICHARD SORIAN is an accomplished communications expert specializing in health care policy. From 2010 to 2012, he served as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, where he was Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ principal advisor on all public affairs matters. His tenure at HHS focused on implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s first comprehensive health care law.

Sorian helped to develop communications strategies and resources including the acclaimed website healthcare.gov. Earlier in his career, Sorian was Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs with the National Committee for Quality Assurance and a Senior Researcher at Georgetown University. From 1980-93, Sorian was a journalist covering health care policy development under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. His work was recognized with several awards including the Harvard School of Public Health Fellowship for Advanced Studies in Public Health. He is the author of two books, “The Bitter Pill: Tough Choices in America’s Health Policy,” and “The Healthcare 500,” as well as numerous peer reviewed articles.