26 states to let HHS run their health insurance exchanges

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Correction appended.

Twenty-six states will let the Health and Human Services Department run their health insurance exchanges, which are set to launch in late 2013, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Feb. 19.

The department has conditionally approved 17 states and the District of Columbia to run their own exchanges, plus another three to run exchanges in partnership with the federal government. On Feb. 15, the final day to apply, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and West Virginia submitted applications to partner with the federal government to run their exchanges.

The states that will defer to the federal government are mostly in the South and Midwest. They'll have the option to run their own exchanges, a key feature of the Affordable Care Act, after 2014.

The exchanges will "offer you apples-to-apples comparisons of costs and coverage between health insurance plans," Sebelius wrote in a HealthCare.gov blog post. Users will be able to compare price, benefits and other features "in plain language that makes sense," she said.

Customers will be able to shop for health insurance on the exchanges starting in October, for coverage that would begin in January 2014, if the implementation occurs as scheduled.

States with Republican governors mostly opted not to participate. The three states in the Northeast that deferred to HHS to run their exchanges--Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine--have Republican governors. Of states with Democratic governors, only Missouri and Montana chose not to participate.

Beginning in April, health insurers will be able to submit their applications to be listed on exchanges for coverage starting in 2014, according to an HHS fact sheet. The department plans to coordinate certification, oversight and account management with states whose exchanges it will be running.

Correction Feb. 21, 2013: A previous version of this article stated that the health insurance exchanges would launch in 2014. They are scheduled to launch in October 2013 for coverage beginning in 2014.

For more:
- read Sebelius' blog post

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