Opposition to health exchange defunding ramps up

Nearly 80 state and national consumer and healthcare groups have signed onto a letter urging lawmakers to reject a Republican bill that would eliminate grants for states to start their own health insurance exchanges. 

The grants are part of Democrats' healthcare reform law and aim to help states set up and run their own exchanges starting in 2014. Under the law, the federal government would take over in states that don't have their own exchange in place.

The letter, signed by the American Cancer Society, the NAACP and the SEIU among other, points out that exchanges are a bipartisan idea and the first three state bills setting them up — in Massachusetts, Utah and California — were signed into law by Republican governors.

"Although exchanges will ultimately be self-sustaining, without this critical funding, states will not have the resources they need to undertake the many tasks necessary to get their exchanges up and running," the letter states.

The Congressional Budget Office has said the bill could save $14 billion over 10 years.