HHS allots $51 million for state health insurance exchanges

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has made available $51 million in grants to help states begin work to establish health insurance exchanges.

Starting in 2014, health insurance exchanges will put control and choice in the hands of individuals and small businesses, the agency stated. The exchanges will provide eligible consumers and businesses with “one-stop-shopping” where they can compare and purchase health insurance coverage.

“We are working hand-in-hand with states as we carefully implement the exchanges to make sure they best meet people’s health insurance needs,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The first round of exchange grants will give states resources to conduct the research and planning to build a health insurance marketplace and determine how their exchanges will be operated and governed. Each state has the option to establish and operate its own exchange or partner with another state or states to operate a regional exchange. If a state decides not to create an exchange for its residents, HHS said it will help establish one on their behalf.

Grant applications are available here and are due by Sept. 1.

The agency also issued a request for comment asking states, consumer advocates, employers, insurers and other interested stakeholders to provide input as HHS develops the rules and standards exchanges should be required to meet. Comments are due by Oct. 4. The complete request for comment is available here.