More states move forward with exchanges

More states are moving forward to implement health reform and the exchanges that play a major role in the law, the Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday.

HHS conditionally approved Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and West Virginia to operate state partnership exchanges, which will be ready for open enrollment in October 2013.

A partnership agreement is just one of three exchange options for states. Exchanges can be run by individual states, by the federal government or by a combination of the two under an arrangement—the state partnership exchange. The partnership model is an option provided to states that want to manage part of the exchange in 2014. HHS says it allows states to make key decisions and tailor the marketplace to local needs and market conditions.

“HHS will continue to work collaboratively with all states to build the marketplace,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.  “Working together, we will be ready in seven months when consumers will be able to use the new marketplace to easily purchase quality, affordable health insurance plans.”

Thursday’s conditional approvals bring the total number of states that have been conditionally approved to partially or fully run their exchanges to 24 states and the District of Columbia.  Additionally, several other states have suggested their own approaches to contributing toward plan management in their exchange in 2014, HHS said.

The federal government will have control over the insurance exchanges in the remaining 26 states.

Though the law intended that each state run its own exchange, many governors have refused to do so, and continually stalled plans. Others had complained there wasn’t enough guidance from the government on how to do so.

Health officials said Thursday they will continue to “provide all states with the flexibility, resources and time needed to support the establishment of the new health insurance marketplace.“

All exchanges are required to begin open enrollment Oct. 1 and start coverage Jan. 1, the date that the law’s individual mandate kicks in, requiring most Americans to buy health insurance. The exchanges set up under health reform are intended to give families and small-business owners “accurate information to make apples-to-apples comparisons of private insurance plans and, get financial help to make coverage more affordable if they’re eligible.”

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