Topeka The federal government on Friday announced the award of $185 million in grants to states to help set up health insurance exchanges -- a process that has been thrown into limbo in Kansas after Gov. Sam Brownback earlier this week rejected a $31.5 million grant to set up an exchange.
In a conference call from Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the new round of grants would go to 13 states and the District of Columbia to establish one-stop shops where consumers can search for the best insurance policy for their needs. Kansas was not among the group. The exchanges are part of the federal health reform law and are scheduled to be in place in 2014.
Earlier, Kansas had been awarded a $31.5 million "early innovator" grant to start work on the health insurance exchange. But on Tuesday, Brownback, who had earlier signed off on the grant, rejected it, saying there were too many strings attached.
Sebelius did not address Brownback's rejection in the teleconference, but maintained that states had been given a lot of leeway in implementing the exchanges to tailor them to their needs.
As a former governor, insurance commissioner and legislator in Kansas, Sebelius said, "I know the importance of letting states lead."
She said the health insurance exchanges will increase competition between health insurance companies and that will result in better rates and policies for individuals and small businesses.
Sebelius and IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman also released proposed rules on tax credits to help people buy private insurance, and procedures to check income and eligibility.