By Kelly Kennedy, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - Michigan, New Hampshire and West Virginia are the final
three states to receive conditional federal approval to run state
partnership health insurance exchanges under the 2010 health care law,
the Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday.
A partnership exchange allows the states to take more time before operating the exchanges fully on their own.
in previous announcements, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen
Sebelius re-emphasized one key message: "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."
announcement means 24 states and the District of Columbia have submitted
plans to operate or partially operate health exchanges.
exchanges will be ready Oct. 1 and neither congressional budgets nor
the mandatory spending cuts that went into effect last week will change
that, said Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information
and Insurance Oversight.
"We will be opening all exchanges in all states," Cohen said.
that have not created their own exchanges will have those created by
the federal government for them, Cohen said, adding that officials from
those states said they will work with HHS to to ensure that insurers
follow state and federal laws. Those states' insurance commissioners
will operate as they have in the past.
A health exchange is a
website that allows consumers to purchase health insurance by comparing
prices and benefits, just as they would through an employer's insurance
plan. Both the federal government and the states have come up with
benefits the plans must offer, such as pediatric vision care or mental
The government plans to have the exchanges in place
by October for enrollment so coverage can begin in January. That's when
the law, also known as the Affordable Care Act, requires most Americans
to purchase insurance or face a fine.