State health Connector receives $81 million federal grant for new website, public education

Massachusetts was one of 11 states to receive a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Thursday to use in building the insurance marketplace. All states must have one in 2014 or residents will be able to get coverage through a federal exchange. The Massachusetts Health Connector, which runs the state exchange, received $81 million.

The grant will help pay for a $68 million contract with information technology firm CGI to build a new Connector website that will be linked to state and federal databases. When a customer applies for health insurance coverage through a state subsidized program or for a non-subsidized plan sold in the state’s virtual marketplace, the system will verify the person’s income, legal residency status, and other factors to provide instant feedback about the programs for which he or she is eligible.

“The website is going to be an even better shopping experience than it is now,” said Connector spokeswoman Stephanie Nichols. “It’s going to streamline everything.”

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The new website is slated to launch by October. The grant also will be used for a public education campaign about the options for subsidized and non-subsidized coverage available under the Affordable Care Act.

“These states are working to implement the health care law and we continue to support them as they build new affordable insurance marketplaces,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a press release. “Starting in 2014, Americans in all states will have access to quality, affordable health insurance and these grants are helping to make that a reality.”

The Connector’s grant follows on about $53 million received from the federal agency last year. The most recent round of grants totalled $1.5 billion, of which $104 million went to Vermont.