Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have recommended benchmark plans to serve as their "essential health benefits" benchmarks, according to a report released today by Avalere Health. The states are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. The report focuses on prescription drug coverage in eight of the proposed state plans: California, Connecticut, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Kaiser Health News also reported today on state progress to define essential health benefits. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services to define the minimum package of benefits that certain health plans must cover, including those participating in health insurance exchanges beginning in 2014. The agency last December proposed that states use a "benchmark" plan approach that reflects the scope of services offered by a "typical employer plan" in that state, but has yet to issue a proposed rule. HHS has encouraged states to identify benchmark plans by Oct. 1, 2012, but no formal deadline has been announced.