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Cooperative Agreements to Support Innovative Exchange Information Technology Systems

EXTERNAL Q&A

Application Process 

Q: What are the Cooperative Agreements to Support Innovative Exchange Information Technology Systems?

A:  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to supporting States as they work to develop these important IT systems.  “Early Innovator” grants will support a handful of States that are ready to lead the way and develop efficient and replicable systems that provide the foundation for other States’ work in this area.

This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will provide competitive incentives for States to design and implement IT infrastructure needed to operate Health Insurance Exchanges.  This competitive “Early Innovators” grant announcement will reward States that demonstrate leadership in developing cutting-edge and cost-effective consumer-based technologies and models for insurance eligibility and enrollment for Exchanges.  These “Early Innovator” States will develop Exchange IT models, building universally essential components that can be adopted and tailored by other States.  The innovations produced from this Cooperative Agreement will be used to help keep costs down for taxpayers, States, and the Federal Government.

The systems developed through these Cooperative Agreements will complement the health plan information on HealthCare.gov.  Two-year grants will be awarded by February 15, 2011 to up to five States or coalitions of States that have ambitious yet achievable proposals that can yield IT models and best practices that will benefit all States.  These States will lead the way in developing consumer-friendly, cost-effective IT systems that can be used and adopted by other States and help all States and the Federal government save money as they work to develop these new competitive market places.

Grants will be awarded to States based on their ability to demonstrate a unique position to use innovative IT approaches for their Exchange IT systems.  These early innovator will develop the key supporting capabilities for the Exchange and build universally essential components for their Exchange IT systems that could potentially be leveraged by other States and/or consortia (partner States).  As such, awards will be based on the applicants who:

  1. Have made progress in assessments and gap analysis for establishing an Exchange;
  2. Achieved an advanced State of readiness to engage in early phases of a systems development lifecycle process (i.e., initiation, concept development, requirements, etc.);
  3. Demonstrated the technical expertise to accomplish an accelerated development schedule;
  4. Demonstrated a clear understanding of the importance of using standards and are committed to their use in the Exchange;
  5. Are committed to establishing an Exchange that serves their State;
  6. Will share the specification, design, implementation, test methodology and results of their Exchange IT systems solutions with other States; and
  7. Will comply with any IT guidance relating to the Exchange or Medicaid issued by HHS and continue to update their plans based on changes to guidance.

For more information, including a link to the FOA, go to www.grants.gov and search for CFDA 93.525. 

Q: When are the grant applications due?

A: Grant applications must be filed by December 22, 2010 11:59 PM EST.

Q:  How will we know if our application has been received by the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight staff?

A:  After submitting their application materials online through Grants.gov, applicants will receive two emails: 1) confirming receipt of the application by Grants.gov, and 2) confirming that the application has been validated.  Applicants can also check the status of their application on Grants.gov.

Q: How do I download the application? What do I do if I encounter problems with this process?

A: You can access the electronic application for this project on http://www.grants.gov.  You must search the downloadable application page by the CFDA number 93.525.

On the Grants.gov website, you will find information about submitting an application electronically through the site, including the hours of operation.  OCIIO strongly recommends that you do not wait until the application due date to begin the application process through http://www.grants.gov.

Please see page 11 the FOA for additional information.

Q:  How do we fill out the mandatory document “Disclosure of Lobbying Activities” if we do not have any lobbying activities to disclose?

A: The Lobbying Form has yellow fields that applicants must complete.  If the applicant does not engage in Lobbying activities it can respond to the Section Fields #4, #6, and #11 and respond with an N/A for Section Fields 10a & 10b.

Q: Should the documents that are submitted as attachments to the grant application be in PDF or Word format?

A:  Grants.gov and OCIIO will accept Word or PDF attachments.  However, if an applicant submits an attachment in Word and receive an error message regarding the attachment, the applicant should convert the Word attachment into a PDF attachment and then resubmit the application.  Note:  Grants.gov requires each attached file to have a unique file name.

Q: Can you describe the method by which funds will be disbursed to the States if a grant application is approved?

A:  Grants funds shall be drawn down through the Payment Management System based on the grantees needs. More detailed instructions will be provided in the Notice of Award.

Q: Who is the point of contact for questions related to grants administration?

A: For questions about this Funding Opportunity  Announcement, please contact:

Michelle Feagins
Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight
Department of Health and Human Services
(301) 492-4312
Michelle.Feagins@hhs.gov

Q: How will the awardees be notified of their grant awards?

A: At this time, we plan to email the Notice of Grant Awards to successful applicants. 

Q: Will HHS provide any guidance or assistance on completing the application process?

A: OCIIO is planning to hold three pre-application conference calls for potential applicants:

  • Thursday, November 4 – 3:00 PM EST
  • Thursday, November 18 – 3:00 PM EST
  • Tuesday, December 14 – 3:00 PM EST

The conference calls provide an overview of this project guidance and include an opportunity for States to ask questions. The pre-application call information is available in the FOA.

Application Content  

Q: Page 23 of the FOA indicates that all grant budgets must include some funding to facilitate participation on the part of individuals who have a disability or long-term illness and their families. What sorts of accommodations have traditionally been made to facilitate their participation?

A: This section, Administrative and National Policy Requirements, notes that, if under this grant a State conducts any consultations with stakeholders, it must ensure that it facilitates the participation of individuals with disabilities.  States should ensure that they budget for these types of costs and provide appropriate budget justification

Q: As part of the application, the State is required to submit a Project Site Location Form. Is this form only for States that use a subcontractor for the grant activities? 

A: No. This is a required form from OMB.  The State must designate the location of the applicant state entity. If a State is contracting any grant activities out to another entity, the Project Site Location Form should nevertheless specify the State applicant’s address.