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Health Insurance Exchanges Alive in 20 States

Ernie Shannon's picture

As of December, 13 states have functioning health insurance exchanges, two more have pending legislation to establish them, while another five states have plans to create the exchanges. Two states, Louisiana and Arkansas, have opted out completely.

Health insurance exchanges are a set of state-regulated and standardized health care plans from which individuals can purchase health insurance eligible for federal subsidies. They have been encouraged by the administration of President Barack Obama as a governmental or quasi-governmental entity to help insurers comply with consumer protections, and to compete in cost-efficient ways. The effort is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed into law by the president in March 2010.

While 20 states have active exchanges or plan to have them in the near future, the remaining 30 states are moving much more slowly toward the goal of exchanges within their borders. For instance, the central-Pennsylvania publication The Patriot News reports that while Pennsylvania has moved slowly toward a health insurance exchange, progress is being made.

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“Pennsylvania has taken steps towards the establishment of an exchange, which I think is positive . . . there are other states that have moved more aggressively, including states whose governors are part of the lawsuit,” said Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a non-government organization that supports the federal health care law.

Mentioning the lawsuit highlights the fact that 26 states have challenged the new health care law and that challenge will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March. Among the challengers is Pennsylvania and its governor, Tom Corbett, who as the state’s attorney general, joined the lawsuit. Pennsylvania State Representative Anthony DeLuca, the minority chairman of the House Insurance Committee believes because of his past challenge to the law, “the Corbett administration has been dragging its feet a bit with the hope the Supreme Court will strike down the law.”

Rosanne Placey, a spokeswoman for the state Insurance Department, said Corbett’s view on the law isn’t affecting Pennsylvania’s pace. “While the governor believes that the law requiring the purchase of health insurance is unconstitutional, we must be prepared if the Supreme Court does not strike down the law. Making sure Pennsylvania is prepared in case that happens is the prudent thing to do,” Placey said.

While the future of health insurance exchanges will be decided in the chambers of the Supreme Court in March, it is clear that across the United States there are vastly different opinions regarding the constitutionality and benefits of the idea. As the president’s health policy is decided by the nine justices, the exchanges will thrive or expire based on the level of support and evidence of benefit coming out of the individual states.