Will West Virginia create its own health insurance exchange or let the federal government get such an exchange, a requirement under the Affordable Care Act, up and running?

That is the question Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will have to answer by Friday, the deadline for a decision and notification of it to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

At this point, West Virginians For Affordable Health Care Executive Director Perry Bryant says he thinks state leaders should opt to partner with the federal government, at least initially.

“I don’t think we have the time or the expertise or the money to develop the technology to operate the exchanges,” Bryant said on Thursday’s MetroNews Talkline.

“It’s enormously complex and it’s enormously expensive.”

State officials had taken steps, at one point, to set up a state run exchange, but that work stalled earlier this year.

As proposed, the exchanges in the states would serve as an online marketplaces for health insurance. When the mandate that everyone have health insurance takes effect in 2014, those who need it would be able to go to the exchange to find coverage.

The idea is to provide affordable health insurance, with federal subsidies, from private insurance companies in the exchanges.
“It’s an option for people to use,” Bryant said. “The exchange will be open to individuals who don’t have insurance available to them. Maybe they’re working and their employer doesn’t offer health insurance and it’s also an option for small businesses with up to 50 employees.”

States that opt to create their own exchanges will have until December 16th to provide their specific plans for doing so to the federal government. Many larger states have opted to run their own health exchanges.

If Governor Tomblin decides to go with a partnership agreement with the federal government for the exchange here, the deadline for the plans on that would be February 15th.

The goal is to get the exchanges up and running by October of next year.

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