The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on July 29 that it will make available $51 million in grants to help states initiate health insurance exchanges, mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Grants of up to $1 million will be made available to each state. The purpose of the grants is to help states develop consumer-centered health insurance marketplaces that will encourage competition and greater control in the hands of individuals and small businesses. The exchanges will be “one stop shops” for consumers and businesses to purchase health insurance coverage.
The HHS recognized the importance of the grants to encourage the implementation of the health insurance exchanges, given states’ struggles to maintain balanced budgets. The Secretary of the HHS, Kathleen Sebelius voiced this concern by emphasizing that, “these grants will give [states] the resources to conduct the research and planning needed to build the health insurance marketplace of the future.”
States have the option to establish and operate their own exchange or partner with another state or states to operate a regional exchange. Secretary Sebeilus said that if a state decides not to create an exchange for its residents, the HHS will establish one on their behalf.
HHS officials have requested public input as standards are developed for the exchanges, which are to begin in 2014. Grant applications are due by September 1, 2010 and comments on the exchanges are due by October 4, 2010.
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