A Dozen States Already Showing Leadership on Health Insurance Marketplaces

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted July 11, 2012

Because of the Supreme Court’s clear and final decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, middle class families and small businesses have greater security when it comes to health care – they can keep their current coverage or, if they need to or want to, search for new, affordable insurance options. In 2014, we can look forward to new state-based health insurance marketplaces, called Affordable Insurance Exchanges, where consumers can compare health care plans and choose a private health plan that meets their needs. Across the country, a dozen states have committed in recent weeks that they will lead efforts to create these Exchanges.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and each state has the opportunity to tailor its Exchange to meet its citizens’ needs. States have the flexibility to decide whether to build a state Exchange, work with other states, or partner with the federal government. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to flexibility in our support of the states’ progress in whatever route they choose, as well as providing planning and implementation funds to help the states to establish the marketplace that suits their residents’ needs.

We have already begun to hear from governors on their states’ commitment to establishing these one-stop-shop marketplaces.

As Rhode Island Governor Lincoln D. Chafee noted in his letter, he signed an executive order in September 2011 to begin work on an Exchange, an effort he says “will provide Rhode Island families and small businesses with access to more affordable, high quality health insurance coverage.”

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley wrote that Maryland’s state-based Exchange is “well underway and we continue to make significant progress with strong support from the state’s political leadership and broad-based stakeholder community.”

Even though the official deadline is November 16, I have already received letters from a dozen states representing nearly one-third of all Americans committing to establishing an exchange. Letters have come from:

  • California Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
  • Colorado Gov. John W. Hickenlooper
  • Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy
  • Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
  • Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley
  • Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton
  • New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo
  • Oregon Gov. John A. Kitzhaber, M.D.
  • Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee
  • Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin
  • Washington Gov. Christine O. Gregoire

I appreciate the hard work many states have engaged in over the past months to begin laying the foundations for the Exchanges, and HHS will be as flexible as possible to help them get over the finish line by 2014. Just late last month, I announced the availability of additional funds to help the states deliver these new health insurance marketplaces, and, as many governors had requested, they will now have until the end of 2014 to apply for the funds. And on January 1, 2014, consumers in every state will have access to an exchange.

As President Obama said after the Supreme Court ruling, it is time to move forward. Since the health care reform law was passed two years ago, we have worked closely with states to begin building these Exchanges where Americans will be able to choose private health insurance plans based on price and quality—and we will continue to work side-by-side with the states to provide the health care quality and security that our citizens need and deserve.