Flexibility Key Word At Senate Hearing On State Exchanges

State officials from different political perspectives expressed interest in establishing health insurance exchanges, and an administration official promised "a wide berth" in how states choose to construct parts of the reform law.

Kansas Health Institute News: Praeger Testifies About Insurance Exchange Activity
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger was one of three state officials who spoke today before a U.S. Senate committee describing implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and efforts by states to create or modify health insurance exchanges. ... [She] testified that the law allows Kansas and other states considerable flexibility in how they implement the new law and operate the exchanges, which must be operational by January 2014 to meet the law's deadlines. Praeger said most states, and Kansas is among them, still need to pass state laws to move forward with implementing the federal reforms (Shields, 3/17).

CQ HealthBeat: Bipartisan Interest In Insurance Exchanges Endures — For Now
State officials from opposite ends of the political spectrum Thursday expressed strong interest in establishing their own health insurance exchanges, one of the few key areas of the health overhaul law sparking such bipartisanship. But at a Senate committee hearing a Utah lawmaker instrumental in creating that state's exchange — which Republicans often cite as a model — said that his state's version has yet to pass muster with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Key policy differences remain between Republicans and Democrats over exchange design. However, every state but Alaska applied for and received grant money to plan the creation of insurance marketplaces (Reichard, 3/17).

National Journal: States To Have Flexibility For Insurance Marketplace, Administration Says
The head of the agency designed to run the new health insurance marketplace that will begin in 2014 told a Senate panel on Thursday that individual states would have a wide berth to construct key parts of the reform law — even as Republicans said they were skeptical. Steve Larsen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, told the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that core provisions of the year-old reform law have worked in tamping down insurance rate hikes. He said this pattern would continue in the years leading up to creation of virtual "exchanges" (DoBias, 3/17).

Meanwhile —

Politico: Kathleen Sebelius's Health Care Pledge: More 'Flexibility'
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is trying hard not to sound like the all-powerful federal bureaucrat in charge of everyone's health care (Nather, 3/17).

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