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CMS Announces Continued Progress in Setting Up Health Insurance Marketplaces

But a lot remains to be done (Dec. 15)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that the District of Columbia and two states (Kentucky and New York) have made “significant” progress in setting up their own affordable health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. These regions are conditionally approved to operate a state-based exchange, which means that they are on track to run the marketplace in 2014.

These conditional approvals follow the same type of approvals provided to Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington earlier last week.

As a result of the Affordable Care Act, consumers and small businesses will have access to new online health-insurance marketplaces starting in 2014. Consumers in every state will be able to buy insurance directly from qualified health plans and may be eligible for tax credits to help pay for their health insurance, the CMS says. The insurance choices will be similar to those offered to members of Congress.

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, however, the road to a health-insurance renaissance could be a rocky one. The report estimates that 32 states will leave it to the federal government to run their marketplaces or will work in partnership, taking on only select responsibilities. That’s a lot fewer than Washington had hoped for.

Moreover, much work remains to be done in the states that have signed up for the program. For example, states are required to build Web sites that will tell consumers whether they are eligible for subsidized coverage and that will detail the cost of a plan’s premiums, based on factors such as age and sex, the article says. States must also create consumer-support programs to work with people who might be purchasing insurance coverage for the first time.

Americans are projected to spend $23 billion in federal subsidies through the exchanges in 2014.

Sources: CMS; December 14, 2012; and Washington Post; December 15, 2012.

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