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Obama administration approves four federal-state health markets

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The Department of Health and Human services on Thursday approved four health-insurance marketplaces that will be run as a federal-state partnerships under President Obama’s health care law.

Conditional approval of plans by Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and West Virginia to split their duties with the federal government brings the total number of states planning to run the “exchanges” either fully or partially to 24, plus the District of Columbia, according to HHS officials.

The exchanges are virtual portals where consumers without employer-based health plans can shop for insurance with the help of tax credits. Those who use the exchanges cannot be denied coverage for pre-existing health conditions.

More than half the states have asked the federal government to run the exchanges for them, citing their political opposition to the Affordable Care Act or a lack of time and information to decide whether they wanted to take on the responsibility, after Mr. Obama’s reelection just weeks before the deadline dampened their hopes for a repeal of “Obamacare.”

HHS has insisted it will be ready to run the markets before enrollment starts on Oct. 1 and the markets are activated on Jan. 1.

“Working together, we will be ready in seven months when consumers will be able to use the new marketplace to easily purchase quality, affordable health insurance plans,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

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