Politics & Government

Kentucky receives $183 million federal grant for health benefit exchange

FRANKFORT — The federal government announced Thursday that Kentucky was one of four states to receive a multi-year grant to help pay for the operation of a health benefit exchange, a controversial requirement of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Kentucky will receive $183 million to go toward information systems needed for the health benefit exchange, which is scheduled to go live in January 2014. Health benefit exchanges are online marketplaces for people to buy insurance plans.

Republicans in Kentucky have tried unsuccessfully to block creation of the exchange, saying it would be too costly for the impoverished state to operate. Even with the help of federal grants, Kentucky will eventually have to pick up the tab, Republicans have said.

However, officials in Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's administration have said the exchange will not need state money because insurance companies will pay for it through taxes.

Beshear created the exchange in July by executive order. The legislature will consider giving permanent approval for the exchange during this year's legislative session, which resumes Feb. 5. If the exchange is not approved by the legislature, Beshear could sign another executive order that would keep it on track to open in 2014.

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kentucky is one of 11 states to receive additional federal grant money to pay for the operational costs of an exchange.

In addition to the $183 million, Kentucky has received four grants totaling more than $70 million for planning and initial costs to start the exchange, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.