State health benefits exchange receives $43m grant

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The Colorado Health Benefit Exchange received a financial shot in the arm with a $43.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help establish the exchange.

HHS is awarding grants to states that have shown progress in establishing their exchanges. The awards are based on the needs and planned expenses of each state. The grant money will be sued to meet deadlines for certification, testing and deployment of the technology behind the systems.

The Colorado Health Benefit Exchange will be a virtual marketplace to allow small businesses and consumers navigate the complicated waters of health insurance. Plans will have to meet minimum requirements, which include basic services and plainly worded language. Consumers will be able to compare plans and costs to find one that best suits their needs. The exchange will be open for business in November 2013, during open enrollment periods. Insurance policies will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Colorado has previously been awarded two other grants to help set up its exchange, part of SB 200. The state exchange can operate independently of the Affordable Care Act, the federal legislation that mandated the exchanges.