Health insurance exchanges receive substantial boost from DHHS

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Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently announced that more than $220 million will be dispersed to 13 states to establish online exchange networks that patients will use to select health insurance plans, reports Information Week.

The funds will be distributed as part of the DHHS’ Affordable Insurance Exchange grant program, and will be allocated to states that have demonstrated considerable progress towards establishing these networks. The states that will receive funding are Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Vermont.

A primary goal of health insurance exchanges is to provide individuals and small business with increased transparency when choosing healthcare coverage plans. The networks will feature comparison functionality, enabling users to assess the details of individual insurance policies depending on their needs. It is hoped that such comparison tools will enable patients to make cost-effective decision and encourage competitive pricing from insurance providers.

The development of a health insurance exchange is an ambitious project, due to the vast amounts of data that need to be accessible by such systems. Access to federal healthcare data, associated fees and adequate healthcare IT infrastructure to handle large amounts of information traffic are all key considerations to any state planning to adopt such a system.

“From the beginning, the timeline for Affordable Care Act implementation has been a challenge. Compounding this is not having information on key aspects of the exchange, simply because the information has yet to be released by the federal government,” Crystal English, Delaware’s health insurance exchange project director, told the news source.

According to Healthcare Finance News, 12 of the 13 states will receive level one funding, which will be used to consult with insurance company stakeholders and to plan for the development of the exchange including design and implementation of healthcare IT infrastructures. Level one grants will cover one year of such expenses. Rhode Island is the only state to receive a level two grant, which permits funding for healthcare IT infrastructure development for two years.