Seventeen states get OK to run health exchanges
With eight new plans approved, 17 states in all have received a tentative nod from the CMS to operate their own health insurance exchanges while two more will offer the insurance marketplaces with federal help. HHS provided conditional approval for seven more states— California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont and Utah—to operate state-based exchanges, and Arkansas was approved to operate a state partnership exchange with the federal government. Ten other states and the District of Columbia had previously received conditional approvals to launch their own exchanges, while Delaware was approved for a partnership exchange. The exchanges, a central pillar of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are intended to spur insurer competition and expand coverage through private health insurance plans not tied to individuals’ employment. Exchange-based insurance plans are expected to provide coverage to 9 million people when they launch in 2014 and expand to 26 million people by 2022, according to July estimates by the Congressional Budget Office. Federal officials are planning to launch federally operated exchanges in states that are not approved either to operate their own exchange or to do so in partnership with the federal government. The deadline for states to submit applications to operate their own exchanges passed on Dec. 14, 2012, but states still have until Feb. 15 to apply for a state partnership exchange. Many Republican governors have indicated they will decline to participate in the exchanges because states will have little control over them. The only state to apply to operate an exchange in partnership or independently and not yet receive tentative approval was Mississippi. CMS officials said they suspended their consideration of that state’s exchange application when legal questions were raised about whether the state insurance commissioner had the legal authority to submit the application.