The feds may have found a way to replace the Cadillac excise tax on rich health plans: Take back money granted to states to start their own health insurance exchanges.

The Obama administration reports it has been seeking the return of grant dollars intended to fund state exchanges for at least several years. But a series of state exchanges collapsed and were replaced by healthcare.gov. To date, the Wall Street Journal reported, some $200 million has flowed back to Washington, D. C. from the recipient states.

There's even more money yet to be collected, federal officials told the Journal, and the intention is to retrieve it all. Of course, not all of the $5 billion or so doled out was wasted. The four failed exchanges — Oregon, Nevada, Maryland and Massachusetts — received a total of about $474 million. Hawaii and Minnesota are also candidates for losing their state exchanges, so the amount could increase.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.