The government is starting to help states pay for the technology infrastructure that is supposed to support the new health insurance distribution programs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be providing 2-year health insurance exchange information technology (IT) grants to up to 5 states or coalitions of states.

The grants, to be awarded by Feb. 15, 2011, are supposed to go to states that “have ambitious yet achievable proposals that can yield IT models and best practices that will benefit all states,” officials say.

The Affordable Care Act, the legislative package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), calls for the country to set up a system of state-based health insurance exchanges that will help individuals and small groups buy standardized, subsidized health coverage from private carriers.

The exchanges are set to start up in 2014.

In addition to offering the health IT grants to 5 states and state coalitions, HHS expects to announce a broader exchange implementation funding program in February 2011, officials say.

- Allison Bell