Exchanges move forward with $220M in HHS grants

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Despite strong and vocal opposition to health reform among states, particularly Republican-led ones, many are moving forward with establishing the cornerstone of the law--health insurance exchanges.

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is awarding nearly $220 million in new federal grants to set up exchanges in 13 states. Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont will share the grant money, reports the New York Times Prescriptions blog.

Rhode Island received the first-ever "Level Two" grant, which encompasses multiple years and requires a commitment to establish an exchange. The state will use its $58.5 million grant to build its exchange's IT capabilities, staffing, and other infrastructure, said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, HHS director of coverage policy, notes Kaiser Health News.

HHS also announced its plan to extend by six months a deadline for more states to request grants and offer additional flexibility for states to get federal help should other deadlines be missed.

In addition to announcing the grants, HHS released a set of frequently asked questions that, among other things, clarifies how the agency will implement the quality rating system for participating insurers. HHS will issue further guidance before exchanges are required to implement that system and will propose a phased approach in which quality ratings in 2014 would be projected on generally available and collected metrics. The exchanges would then transition to an insurer-specific rating in 2016, according to HHS.

To learn more:
- read the state exchange FAQs (.pdf)
- read the New York Times Prescriptions blog post
- check out the Kaiser Health News article
- read the LifeHealthPro article

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