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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The company that won a $24 million contract to operate the Rhode Island health benefits exchange’s customer service center is an affiliate of a company that is selling plans on the exchange, but state officials say there are built-in protections to prevent conflicts of interests.

Florida-based Connextions got an 18-month contract to manage a call center in Providence that will help individuals and small businesses shop for insurance on the new state-run exchange, a part of the federal health care overhaul. Connextions is a subsidiary of Optum, whose parent is UnitedHealth Group. Its UnitedHealthcare division is offering plans on the exchange.

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