HHS: States moving forward with healthcare reform law's exchanges

Officials announced new federal grants giving 34 states the ability to create insurance exchanges under the healthcare law.

By comparison, governors or legislatures in only 16 states have officially created the framework for an exchange, according the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is preparing for 2014, when much of the divisive law will take effect.

"Thanks to the healthcare law, Americans will have more health insurance choices and the ability to compare insurance plans," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement Thursday.

"We continue to support states as they move forward building an exchange that works for them."

Under the law, which the Supreme Court largely upheld in June, states that refuse to establish their own exchanges will see the marketplace created by federal health officials.

Some Republican-led states have said they will decide on a course of action following the election. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal the law, a move that would require his party's control of both Congress and the White House.

On Thursday, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, New York and Vermont received grants to support the creation of exchanges. Each state is at a slightly different point in the process.

The exchanges, like the individual mandate to buy insurance, have long raised the ire of people who oppose the health law.

They are designed as "one-stop marketplaces" for choosing insurance and meant to "offer consumers and small businesses increased competition and choice," according to HHS.