Sebelius: Health Insurance Exchanges Planned by 18 States

(Reuters) - A total of 18 U.S. states are planning to start their own health insurance marketplaces, which will be available to consumers and businesses in 2014, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a blog posting on Monday.

The deadline for states to inform the federal government if they would operate healthcare exchanges under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law was Dec. 14. The number of states participating was in line with expectations and leaves the government to create online marketplaces for the rest of the country.

The exchanges are one of the key aspects of the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in 2010. They will create online marketplaces where individuals can buy health insurance from companies like UnitedHealth Group, Wellpoint Inc, Aetna Inc andCigna Corp.

"The marketplace will provide consumers and small businesses one-stop shopping for health insurance with better information about plan benefits, quality and cost - simplifying the process for buying health insurance," Sebelius said in her post.

Between the exchanges and expansion of Medicaid government healthcare for the poor, more than 30 million people are expected to become insured in the next decade.

Sebelius said the states that submitted applications for exchanges included: California,Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont andUtah.

On Friday, the government conditionally approved the plans previously submitted by theDistrict of Columbia, Kentucky and New York. It had previously backed plans from Colorado,Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon and Washington.

The remaining 32 states have until Feb. 15, 2013, to declare whether they want to set up a health exchange in partnership with the government.

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