SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — California has been awarded a $674 million federal grant to continue developing and building an online insurance marketplace under the federal health care reform law, state officials announced Thursday.

The state is receiving substantial support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of the effort to aid millions of uninsured Californians, said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state entity in charge of the exchange.

“This is a very big deal … but it’s a very big job,” he said.

Starting later this year, Covered California will launch a website where individuals and small businesses can compare and enroll in health plans. Some will be eligible for federal subsidies and credits to make coverage affordable.

Coverage will begin in 2014.

Lee said the latest federal grant will enable California to create the website, launch a multi-cultural, multi-language marketing campaign, and staff call centers where people can get help.

The federal Affordable Care Act seeks to increase health coverage by creating an online insurance market, and by expanding Medicaid for low-income people.

By some estimates, there are about 7 million people in California without health insurance—or about one in five nonelderly state residents.

Since late 2010, Covered California has been allocated nearly $1 billion in federal grants. After 2014, the exchange must be self-supporting from fees paid by health plans and insurers participating in the exchange.

Also Thursday, the California Endowment, a statewide health foundation, announced a four-year, $225 million commitment to support community outreach, increase primary care providers in underserved areas, contain health care costs and provide more consistent care to illegal immigrants.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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