HHS Announces $220M To Help 13 States Set Up Insurance Exchanges

On Tuesday, HHS issued nearly $220 million in new federal grants to help 13 states establish health insurance exchanges under the federal health reform law, the New York Times' "Prescriptions" reports.

The new grants come nearly a month after the National Association of Insurance Commissioners asked HHS for more flexibility in establishing the exchanges, suggesting state insurance commissioners might miss important deadlines because they lack adequate funding and staff.

In addition to providing the grants, HHS said it will delay by six months the deadline for states to apply for more federal funding to help run the exchanges. The department also said it will offer federal aid if states miss additional deadlines (Japsen, "Prescription," New York Times, 11/29).

Further, HHS officials said the agency will allow states to spend any unused balance of exchange grants on other needs (Daly, Modern Healthcare, 11/29).

Grant Recipients Oppose Reform Law

Of the 13 states receiving the funding, nine are led by GOP governors (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/29). Seven of the Republican-led states are challenging the reform law's constitutionality in court.

The overhaul stipulates that if states do not set up the exchanges, the federal government will operate them on states' behalf. As a result, many conservative state leaders have begun implementing an exchange in an effort to avoid ceding control to the government.

The seven grant recipients that also are plaintiffs in cases challenging the health reform law are:

  • Alabama;
  • Arizona;
  • Idaho;
  • Iowa;
  • Maine;
  • Michigan; and
  • Nebraska.

The other recipients are:

  • Delaware;
  • Hawaii;
  • New Mexico;
  • Rhode Island;
  • Tennessee; and
  • Vermont (AP/Washington Post, 11/29).

Some States Unwilling To Implement Exchanges

While some states opposed to the reform law are working to implement exchanges, others are not preparing because they believe the U.S. Supreme Court will rule the overhaul unconstitutional or the next Congress or president will repeal it, the Washington Times reports.

Tony Keck, director of South Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services, said that "there's really no first-mover advantage for states to jump into this, especially when we don't know what's going to happen next summer and in the election" (Winfield Cunningham, Washington Times, 11/29).


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