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Federal Exchange Guidelines Released

Yesterday, the federal government released policies to assist states in establishing health insurance exchanges, which will allow consumers and small businesses a platform to purchase insurance plans. They will provide states a significant degree of flexibility to design and operate an exchange that is suited for each state’s residents.

In a press release, Secretary Sebelius reiterated this point. “These policies give states the flexibility they need to design an Exchange that works for them” in two key ways:

  • Setting standards for establishing Exchanges, setting up a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), performing the basic functions of an Exchange, and certifying health plans for participation in the Exchange, and
  • Establishing a streamlined, web-based system for consumers to apply for and enroll in qualified health plans and insurance affordability programs.

Many states, including California, have taken notable steps towards the establishment of state Exchanges; 33 states and the District of Columbia have received over $667 million in Establishment Grants. Many other states, however, are delaying participation until the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA is out. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 26-28 and is expected to issue a ruling by July 1.

The federal government will establish its own exchanges in states that fail to meet standards in time.

The full regulations document is available online in its 642-page glory.

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