Health and Human Services (HHS) conducted a private meeting last week with health care provider groups to discuss the elements of an “essential health benefits” package in new state-based health insurance exchanges.

The federal health reform law mandates that by January 2014 states must create insurance exchanges that provide coverage options for individuals and small businesses. States can choose to administer their own exchanges, for which they must have some infrastructure in place by January 2013, or ask the federal government to run the exchanges for them.

Earlier this month, an Institute of Medicine committee released its recommendations to HHS on how the basic coverage standards for the exchanges should be established. HHS officials said the agency also would hold similar meetings with consumer advocates and insurers about the essential benefits.