HHS announces $51M in state grants for health insurance exchanges

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Thursday $51 million in grants to help states launch health insurance exchanges.

The grants, available in amounts of up to $1 million per state, will help states develop a "new, competitive, consumer-centered health insurance marketplaces," according to HHS officials. The health insurance exchanges "will put greater control and greater choice in the hands of individuals and small businesses," they said.

On Thursday, HHS officials also called for public input as the Department begins to develop standards for the exchanges, to begin in 2014. The exchanges are mandated as part of the new Affordable Care Act.

The exchanges will make purchasing health insurance easier by providing eligible consumers and businesses with one-stop-shopping where they can compare and purchase health insurance coverage,  HHS officials said.

"With most states struggling to keep their budgets in balance, these grants will give them the resources to conduct the research and planning needed to build the health insurance marketplace of the future," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "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."

"This first round of exchange grants will give states resources to conduct the research and planning needed to build a better health insurance marketplace and determine how their exchanges will be operated and governed," Sebelius said.

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 will help establish one on their behalf, she said.

Grant applications are available at and are due by Sept. 1. Comments on rules and standards exchanges should be required to meet are due by Oct. 4, HHS said.