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State Health Exchanges Leaning Toward Insurers

From The Huffington Post:

Wendell Potter–7/14/11 12:29 PM ET

The insurance industry made it abundantly clear this week that it is in the driver’s seat–in both Washington and state capitals — of one of the most important vehicles created by Congress to reform the U.S. health care system.

The Affordable Care Act requires the states to create new marketplaces — “exchanges” — where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. In the 15 months since the law took effect, insurers have lobbied the Obama administration relentlessly to give states the broadest possible latitude in setting up their exchanges. And those insurance companies have been equally relentless at the state level in making sure governors and legislators follow their orders in determining how the exchanges will be operated.

When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the proposed federal rules governing the exchanges on Monday, insurance executives must have been doing high fives all over the country.

Insurers had several main objectives. First, they did not want the feds to require states to negotiate with health plans on price and benefit design. And they did not want plans that failed to meet certain criteria to be excluded from the exchanges. Insurers did want the states to feel free to appoint people with ties to the industry to run the exchanges. Continue reading