Feds, States Begin Work To Set Up Online Insurance Exchanges

Los Angeles Times: Federal health officials took an early step Thursday towards creating online health insurance marketplaces in the states. "The Obama administration awarded 49 grants Thursday to states and the District of Columbia to plan for new health insurance exchanges designed to help Americans shop for health plans beginning in 2014. These state-based exchanges, a key foundation of the new healthcare law, are to become the central Internet-based marketplace for consumers who do not get health benefits at work" (Levey, 9/30).

Modern Healthcare: The grants will total $49 million - a million dollars for each state. "These grants 'begin the path toward 2014,' the year in which the exchanges are scheduled to be up and running, Jay Angoff, HHS' director of the office of consumer information and insurance oversight, said during a teleconference. The exchanges 'will create a marketplace in which insurers compete on the basis of price and quality, and enable consumers to get a better deal on health insurance,' Angoff said" (Lubell, 9/30).

The Hill's Healthwatch Blog: But wait, aren't there 50 states, plus the district? "Alaska and Minnesota were the only two states to turn down federal grants for the development of insurance exchanges, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday… Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who is mulling a presidential run in 2012, has said he doesn't want to apply for federal grants tied to a law he disagrees with. And Alaska Insurance Director Linda Hall told The Hill that the state does not want federal funds to set up an exchange that would require people to buy insurance" (Pecquet, 9/30).

The Associated Press: By contrast, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday signed legislation authorizing the state to set up the exchanges. "The governor's action makes California the first state to implement an oversight board for insurance exchange marketplaces since the new federal health care law was enacted earlier this year. Massachusetts implemented its exchange prior to reform" (Hindery, 9/30).

Healthwatch, in a separate story: "The National Association of Insurance Commissioners on Wednesday released a 10-page draft bill for the state health insurance exchanges mandated by the healthcare reform law. The document could become the basis for exchange legislation that states will start considering in 2011 and 2012, according to Ipsita Smolinski of the consulting firm Capitol Street" (Pecquet, 9/30).

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