TUESDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The Obama administration is giving states additional time to set up so-called health insurance exchanges, a key element of the 2010 health reform law designed to bring coverage to an estimated 30 million Americans who don't have insurance.
Under the law, states were supposed to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by Jan. 1 whether they were planning to establish the online marketplaces.
But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that she would extend the deadline for any states that expressed interest in creating their own exchanges or overseeing insurance sold through a federal exchange, The New York Times reported.
The state-based insurance exchanges are a crucial component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the controversial health reform legislation championed by President Barack Obama. Each exchange would operate a website where uninsured residents of the state and small employers can compare various health-plan options offered by insurance companies, much in the same way that consumers shop online for hotel rooms and airplane tickets that suit them best.
By late last month, just 18 states and the District of Columbia had said they intended to run their own exchanges, Sebelius said.
In states that choose not to set up an exchange, the federal government will implement health insurance exchanges, helping the uninsured gain coverage.
"We're looking forward to Jan. 1, 2014, when consumers and small businesses will be enrolled through the exchanges in private health insurance plans and millions more Americans will have the coverage they need and deserve," Sebelius wrote in a blog posting.
The health reform law is designed to aid some 30 million uninsured Americans by expanding Medicaid, the publicly run program that helps the poor obtain med
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