Nine GOP-led states receive new money to implement health law

Nine Republican governors received grants Tuesday to help implement the core component of President Obama’s healthcare law.

The Health and Human Services Department awarded 13 grants, totaling almost $220 million, for states to build insurance exchanges. The new marketplaces for insurance must be up and running by 2014, and HHS has the power to step in with a federal exchange in any state that doesn’t establish its own.

Planning for exchanges has divided Republican governors and created rifts within state governments. Some have taken a hard line against implementing the law, but others either support the concept of an exchange or want to ensure that the federal government does not take over.

The 13 grants announced Tuesday went to Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Vermont.

HHS also said Tuesday that states can apply for, receive and spend grant money even if they don’t have an exchange set up by the healthcare law’s deadline. The department has consistently pushed states hard to set up their own exchanges or to split the responsibilities with the federal government. States that get exchanges grants can use the money to set up parts of an exchange while HHS handles the rest, the department said in new guidance for states.

“States are moving at their own pace to get their exchanges up and running,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters.