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Feds extend deadline for state health insurance exchanges — again

By Tony Pugh, McClatchy Newspapers –

WASHINGTON — As officials in Republican-led states come to grips with the fact that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay, the Obama administration continues to give states more time to decide how they will implement the new health care law.

States planning to run their own health insurance “exchanges” — Internet marketplaces where individuals can shop, compare and purchase private health insurance or, if eligible, enroll in public Medicaid — were supposed to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of their plans by Friday.

But on Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave these states until Dec. 14 to notify the department and provide details on how their exchanges will work. Sebelius announced the changes in letters to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, both Republicans.

The health care law requires states to set up the exchanges next year. States can operate and administer the exchanges themselves or in partnership with the federal government. Last week, Sebelius gave a similar extension — until Feb. 15, 2013 — to states that want to run partnership exchanges.

The moves will allow states such as Louisiana and Florida, which had resisted implementing the health care law, more time to develop and finalize their plans for the exchanges.

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