HHS launches two-day meeting with state officials on health exchanges

The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday began a two-day meeting with more than 150 officials from 44 states to discuss the next steps in creating state health insurance exchanges.

The exchanges, called for by Democrats' healthcare reform law, are set to begin operating in 2014. However, states must show by the end of 2012 that they're ready to set their own exchanges up if they want to avoid the federal government taking over.

"This working meeting is part of our regular communication with the states to provide the support they need to help turn the health care law into a reality," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement, "including several major meetings and weekly calls with hundreds of state officials."

All but two states — Minnesota and Alaska — have applied for and received federal grants to help them plan the creation of their exchange.