LOS ANGELES (AP) — California formally launched its insurance exchange for small businesses Monday as questions loom about potentially higher rates and just days after the federal government said it was shelving its version of the online portal for a year.

The nation's most populous state runs its own insurance marketplace, Covered California, and officials have been quick to distinguish it from the troubled federal system that serves 36 other states.

Last week, the Obama administration said it would put off until next November its online small-business site while it concentrates on repairs to the HealthCare.gov website for individuals.

Covered California launched its online site for individuals and families Oct. 1. At a news conference in Los Angeles, agency officials said the small-business counterpart would offer affordable choices for companies that want to provide compensation packages to their workers, including health care.

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