PBS' the NewsHour
explains health insurance exchanges by looking at Massachusetts, which has "proved a testing ground for a concept that could emerge as a centerpiece to national health care reform: a health insurance exchange," Massachusetts residents are required to carry health insurance with minimum standards. Residents can make sure their plans meet those requirements by buying them on a state-run insurance exchange called "the Connector."
"[T]he Connector is, at its most basic, simply a marketplace where people can buy health insurance. But that marketplace can be organized in many different ways, can be given different amounts of authority, and can be open to all consumers or only to select groups. Right now, Congress is debating the shape of a possible national health insurance exchange -- with bills in the House and Senate proposing somewhat different possibilities. Proponents of a strong health insurance exchange say that structured properly, an exchange could help stimulate competition among insurers, cut costs and increase enrollment in insurance plans" (Winerman, 7/23).