Friday, January 4, 2013

Utah And 6 Other States Get Feds' OK To Run Insurance Exchanges

Today, the federal government announced that Utah was one of seven states to gain conditional approval  to run its own health insurance marketplace.

Utah Rep. Gov. Gary Herbert, has resisted making major changes to the state's existing marketplace, which was built before passage of the federal health law and is geared to small business.

"Generally, I would prefer a state-based approach if I were to have the flexibility to stay true to Utah principles," Herbert wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month asking for approval. Acknowledging that Utah's exchange was "atypical," Herbert suggested it serve as "the minimum standard for all federally compliant exchanges."

At news conference, HHS officials said Utah would still have to meet all of the law's requirements to get final approval, including offering coverage for individuals, and hiring so-called navigators to help consumers make decisions about what coverage to buy.

Ally Isom, deputy chief of staff for the governor said "Because it's consumer-driven, market-based and flexible, Utah's model is the right solution for Utah. Of course we'll review the HHS announcement and determine if the conditions are acceptable or reasonable for our state exchange—and that includes sitting down with legislators—but there is nothing about Utah's path that changes as a result of today's announcement."

The insurance exchanges are scheduled to open for enrollment Oct. 1 with coverage beginning January 2014. The exchanges are a key way the federal health law will extend health insurance coverage to as many 30 million people starting next year.

Besides Utah, officials announced Thursday they had given approval to state-run insurance exchanges in California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont. Previous approvals had been given to Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

The latest tally means the majority of states will have exchanges run entirely or partly by the federal government. The law requires the federal government to step in if states fail to set up exchanges. 

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