States are collaborating to develop health IT solutions for insurance exchanges

A growing number of states are working together to build the health IT systems that they're going to need to run health insurance exchanges for individuals and small businesses, starting in 2014.

The exchanges will have to be able to handle eligibility and enrollment, as well as tax credits and cost-sharing reductions for eligible consumers. They will also have to be able to connect to their states' legacy Medicaid applications and a cluster of information systems in the federal government. The latter include the systems of the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Homeland Security Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Social Security Administration.

HHS recently presented $241 million in "early innovator" grants to help states develop IT systems, operations, and governance. The grant recipients include Kansas, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Wisconsin, and a multi-state consortium led by the University of Massachusetts Medical School. (The New England collaborative includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.)

The central idea of the early innovator program is that some states will create applications that can be transferred to other states. For instance, Kansas is developing tools and functionality for an online portal and an end-to-end solution for its information exchange. The state is in discussions with Missouri to partner with its neighbor on the project.

Meanwhile, Maryland will develop a tool that will connect its exchange with the federal systems so that it can automatically confirm an applicant's income and citizenship. Arizona, Indiana, California, West Virginia, and Oregon will collaborate with Maryland on the effort.

To learn more:

--Read the Government Health IT article

--Check out the piece on BNET Healthcare

States leading the way on implementation: HHS awards "early innovator" grants to seven states

$35.6 Million Grant to Fund Technology Infrastructure for Health Care Reform