HHS awards $185M in exchange grants

Thirteen states will split $185 million in grants to help establish the insurance exchanges created by the healthcare reform law, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday.

The grants are available to states that have taken some action to set up an exchange — not necessarily by passing a state law to create the new marketplace. The single largest establishment grant — more than $38 million — went to California, the first state to pass an exchange law.

But the list also includes a handful of conservative states that have registered their opposition to the healthcare reform law. Missouri, which has filed its own lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality, received more than $20 million. Mississippi also pulled in more than $20 million, which HHS said the state will use to continue planning for its exchange.

Oregon and West Virginia, both of which have passed exchange legislation, each received less than $10 million in establishment grants.

HHS previously awarded $1 million planning grants to every state except Alaska, and seven states received grant money as "early innovators" in the exchanges' information technology systems. Two early innovator states, however — Oklahoma and Kansas — have returned or said they will return their grant money. Neither received one of the planning grants announced Friday.