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States suing over health care law collect funding

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Federal officials announced Tuesday they are awarding more money to help states carry out President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. So what's the surprise?

Seven states that are suing to overturn the landmark law are also on the list for funding.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said 13 states will split grants totaling nearly $220 million to help set up health insurance exchanges. Millions of uninsured Americans will be able to buy private coverage through these online supermarkets starting in 2014, with taxpayer-provided assistance to cover the cost of premiums.

"States are moving at their own pace to get their exchanges up and running," said Sebelius.

The exchanges represent half of Obama's strategy for expanding coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. While the middle-class uninsured will pick a plan through their state exchange, low-income people will be covered through an expanded Medicaid program.

Although opponents challenge the constitutionality of "Obamacare," some states led by conservatives are hedging their bets.

The seven that are suing and also getting money: Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan and Nebraska. Three other plaintiff states — Indiana, Mississippi and Nevada — previously got funding.

Accepting the money does not commit a state to follow through and actually establish a health insurance exchange.

But it is a sign that federal officials recognize a state is making significant progress. The money can be used for a variety of purposes, including tackling such challenges as the kind of technology a state will use to sign up its citizens.

Under the law, if a state fails to set up an exchange, the federal government will step in and do it for them.

"We continue to encourage all states to establish their own exchanges," said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, HHS director of coverage policy. "We think states are in the position of understanding best what they need for their own residents."

States are all over the place in their preparations for the health overhaul.

Some are on the sidelines, waiting for the Supreme Court to rule. Others, like California, are forging ahead to set up their exchanges. Vermont even wants to run a statewide single-payer system loosely modeled on Canada's. Many have made varying degrees of progress. In most states, pivotal health care decisions will be made in next year's legislative sessions.

Also receiving grants Tuesday were Delaware, Hawaii, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Vermont.

Rhode Island earned the distinction of becoming the first "Level Two" grant recipient, meaning the state has made a formal commitment to set up an exchange and is receiving multi-year funding.

Counting those that previously received funding, a total of 29 states have now received advanced planning grants.

Also Tuesday, federal officials released guidance for the state on technical issues involving coordination between different levels of government in the operation of the exchanges.

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  1. Why not take some time to do some research before traveling to that Indiana town or city, and find the ones that are no smoking either inside, or have a patio? People like yourself are just being selfish, and unnecessarily trying to take away all indoor venues that smokers can enjoy themselves at. Last time I checked, it is still a free country, and businesses do respond to market pressure and will ban smoking, if there's enough demand by customers for it(i.e. Linebacker Lounge in South Bend, and Rack and Helen's in New Haven, IN, outside of Fort Wayne). Indiana law already unnecessarily forced restaurants with a bar area to be no smoking, so why not support those restaurants that were forced to ban smoking against their will? Also, I'm always surprised at the number of bars that chose to ban smoking on their own, in non-ban parts of Indiana I'll sometimes travel into. Whiting, IN(just southeast of Chicago) has at least a few bars that went no smoking on their own accord, and despite no selfish government ban forcing those bars to make that move against their will! I'd much rather have a balance of both smoking and non-smoking bars, rather than a complete bar smoking ban that'll only force more bars to close their doors. And besides IMO, there are much worser things to worry about, than cigarette smoke inside a bar. If you feel a bar is too smoky, then simply walk out and take your business to a different bar!

  2. As other states are realizing the harm in jailing offenders of marijuana...Indiana steps backwards into the script of Reefer Madness. Well...you guys voted for your Gov...up to you to vote him out. Signed, Citizen of Florida...the next state to have medical marijuana.

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