KCUR News
5:43 pm
Fri August 12, 2011

Missouri Gets $21 Million for Online Health Exchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Missouri has received a nearly $21 million federal grant to build an online health insurance exchange.

Travis Ford, with the Missouri Department of Insurance, says if set up correctly, an exchange would enable Missourians to view multiple insurance plans online, to more easily compare policies and prices.

Under the federal health law, states can either develop their own exchanges, or opt out and have the federal government create one instead.

Ford says today's grant allows Missouri to get a head start on the process.

"If Missouri's leaders elect to build, create, and operate a state-run online marketplace like this, then we need to be ready," says Ford. "And this grant money allows us to do the work and put the IT structure in place that's necessary."

The federal health law requires that exchanges be up and running by 2014. States have until next summer to decide whether to direct the process.

Last session, the Missouri House unanimously passed exchange legislation, but it never made it to a vote in the Senate. The Senate's insurance committee, meanwhile, is preparing to hold hearings across the state this month on whether and how to set one up.

Earlier this week, Kansas officials returned $31.5 million in federal funding to develop an exchange. That grant money, however, was part of a different program, aimed at creating model exchange programs that could then be replicated in other states. Kansas has not yet applied for the "establishment grant" that Missouri and twelve other states received today.

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