Protestors demonstrating against the Idaho health insurance exchange… (Joe Jaszewski / The Idaho…)
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration Thursday cleared a final group of states to open their own health insurance exchanges this fall, advancing a key goal of the 2010 healthcare law to provide Americans with new options to shop for health coverage.
The federal approvals announced for California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont and Utah mean that 19 states and the District of Columbia are on track operate their own exchanges this year.
Exchanges in the remaining states will be run by the federal government or by a state-federal partnership.
Administration officials and many healthcare experts had hoped that each state would operate an exchange, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act designed to allow consumers who don’t get health benefits at work to comparison shop for health plans, much as they now buy airplane tickets.
PHOTOS: Scenes from the 'fiscal cliff'
Health plans in these exchanges will have to meet new minimum standards. And consumers who make less than four times the federal poverty level will be eligible for new government subsidies to offset their premiums.
Most states led by Democratic governors chose to move forward with an exchange. Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington have already received clearance from the Department of Health and Human Services.
But most Republican state leaders, many of whom have vigorously fought implementation of the 2010 healthcare law, balked at setting up a new insurance marketplace.
Only four GOP-led states – Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah – are moving ahead with their own exchange.
A look ahead at 2013’s political battles
Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook