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WA & OR Take Health Exchange Grants

May 17, 2012

Washington and Oregon were among the six new states to take Health Exchange grants to implement the new health care law.  Idaho, a highly conservative and Republican majority state, snubbed HHS and did not take the money as they await a final decision on whether the Affordable Care Act will be overturned by the US Supreme Court.  The high court heard six hours of oral arguments in March and is expected to issue a decision by the end of June 2012.

The grants will help states establish Affordable Insurance Exchanges announced Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Starting in 2014, Affordable Insurance Exchanges will help consumers and small businesses in every state to choose a private health insurance plan. These comprehensive health plans will ensure consumers have the same kinds of insurance choices as members of Congress. Including today’s awards, 34 states and the District of Columbia have received Establishment grants to fund their progress toward building Exchanges.

“States across the country are implementing the new health care law,” said Secretary Sebelius. “In 2014, consumers in every state will have access to a new marketplace where they will be able to easily purchase affordable insurance.”

States can apply for Exchange grants through the end of 2014, and these funds are available for states to use beyond 2014 as they continue to establish Exchange functionality. This ensures that states have the support and time necessary to build the best Exchange for their residents.

HHS also issued two guidance documents today to help states build Affordable Insurance Exchanges.

  • New guidance for states: Today’s guidance includes an Exchange Blueprint states may use to demonstrate how their Affordable Insurance Exchange will work to offer a wide range of competitively priced private health insurance options. The Blueprint also sets forth the application process for states seeking to enter into a Partnership Exchange. If a state chooses to operate its own Exchange or a Partnership Exchange, HHS will review and potentially approve or conditionally approve the Exchange no later than Jan. 1, 2013, so it can begin offering coverage on Jan. 1, 2014. To see the state Exchange Blueprint, visit http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/other/index.html#hie
  • Exchanges in every state: Consumers in every state will have access to coverage through an Affordable Insurance Exchange on Jan. 1, 2014. If a state decides not to operate an Exchange for its residents, HHS will operate a Federally-facilitated Exchange (FFE). This guidance describes how HHS will consult with a variety of stakeholders to implement an FFE, where necessary, how states can partner with HHS to implement selected functions in an FFE, and key policies organized by Exchange function. To see the guidance on the FFEs, visit http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/regulations/index.html#hie

The Department will conduct implementation forums in the coming months to work with states and stakeholders on their questions and the work to be done in building Exchanges. The Department will also engage in consultation with Tribes, Tribal Governments, and Tribal Organizations on how Exchanges can serve their populations.

For more information on these implementation forums, visit http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/factsheets/index.html#hie

For more information on Exchanges, including fact sheets, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/exchanges.

Source: US Department of Health & Human Services, News Release – May 16, 2012

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