$3.8B already spent setting up Obamacare, heading to over $5B

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The administration has already spent $3.8 billion creating the system for Americans and business to buy Obamacare health insurance, and that figure is likely to top $5 billion when every participating state comes online, according to federal figures.

California has received the most so far, some $910 million in grants to be used to build the state's "health insurance marketplace," the so-called "exchanges" where citizens and businesses will be able to compare and choose their preferred coverage as soon as October.

The $3.8 billion already spent on grants to 51 states, territories and the District of Columbia is just to serve the estimated 21 million-40 million who don't have health insurance. The majority of Americans already have insurance, typically through their workplace.

The president's decision to delay forcing employers to participate for a year won't impact funding for state health insurance exchanges.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has provided several types of grants for states to hire workers, buy equipment, and conduct surveys to determine how big a bureaucracy is needed to serve uninsured workers. The three key grants are "planning grants," "Level 1 grants," and "Level 2 grants."

Planning and Level 1 grants have been received by states in the earlier stages of setting up their exchanges. So far, 37 states are in that category. The money is often spent on forming task forces, conducting surveys, hiring consultants and buying computers and is applied for on a year-by-year basis.

Level 2 spending typically adds about five times more funding to the Level 1 grants and is being used to hire people and outfit offices over several years. California, the District, and 11 other states have received that funding.

Based on the grant spending pattern, the $3.8 billion spent so far could easily top $5 billion when the full system is set up. Under Obamacare, federal grants help states set up their exchanges which are eventually taken over and funded by states. A fact sheet said that grants will be available through 2014.

Level 1 states are behind in their organization, but officials believe they will be ready for open enrollment as early as this fall.

The administration has provided an online map for people to click to see how far along their state is in the funding process.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.