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States face deadlines for Affordable Care Act grants

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The Affordable Care Act included grants for states to set up their own health insurance exchanges, and the deadlines for spending that money are happening this winter. Some states applied for the cash but then used little, or none, of the money because of political opposition to the law, according to Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Some of the states that were actively opposed to the law have actually returned the money,” he says.

Other states, like New Jersey, which faces a deadline Thursday, let their deadlines expire. Levitt says states that did use the grant money were able to spend some of it on outreach.

“The amount of consumer assistance available to people in states running their own exchanges is quite a bit better than in the federal marketplace because of these grant dollars,” he explains.

Levitt says the real crunch time will come this fall when people facing fines for not having insurance try to enroll on the exchanges.

“I’m sure there’s a large proportion of people who aren’t doing any kind of rational calculation based on complete information about this,” says health economist Austin Frakt.

Frakt says they’ll have lots of questions and that there will be fewer people to give them answers. 

UPDATE: After the original story was broadcast, we received the following statement from Health and Human Services spokesman Fabien Levy:

“As we have always made clear to the State of New Jersey, we are eager to work with them to re-scope their grant for activities that are allowable under the law and that are in line with guidance and regulations.  We have reached out to the state numerous times over the last few months in order to avoid a last minute scramble, but unfortunately the state has yet to send us a request to re-scope their grant for any allowable activities.  We are committed to working with New Jersey to support their efforts to successfully implement their Marketplace.”

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