Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have received funds from the Health and Human Services Department totaling $185 million to build state insurance exchanges to aid consumers and small businesses in comparative shopping for health care coverage.

The funds, for states now beyond the planning stage, are "Exchange Establishment" grants to start the process of building the exchanges. Three other states — Indiana, Rhode Island and Washington — received a total of $35 million in grants in May.

The exchanges, to be operational by 2014, are mandated under the Affordable Care Act. States must notify the federal government by 2013 of their intention to build an exchange; the feds will implement an exchange in those that do not.

HHS in 2010 awarded 49 states and D.C. about $1 million each in planning grants. The department in February 2011 then awarded substantial grants totaling $241 million for states or organizations representing 11 states to develop exchange models that other states can copy. Kansas and Oklahoma have since returned their grants.

HHS in coming weeks will hold forums in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Sacramento and Portland, Ore., to solicit public comment on exchanges and three recently proposed rules to govern the exchanges.

More information on the states receiving Exchange Establishment grants is available here.

Joseph Goedert writes for Insurance Networking News, a SourceMedia publication.

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