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When will health insurance exchanges be open?
States are presently creating health insurance exchanges which have to be up and running by 2014, when almost everyone will be required to have health insurance under the federal health care reform law. People who don’t have employer sponsored health insurance or can't afford it (and are not yet eligible for Medicare) will be able to buy insurance through their state's insurance exchange. Initially, the exchanges will be open only to individuals and small businesses. In 2017, they will be open to large-group health insurance buyers.
The exchanges, set up as one-stop shops, will offer standardized information about plan benefits and costs to make it easier for consumers to differentiate between different health plans. They are designed to combine individuals and small businesses into a group to provide bulk purchasing power, which should help reduce premiums.
Some states will have their health insurance exchanges operational before 2014. Massachusetts had an exchange in place before the health care reform law was passed. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law in September enabling the state to begin establishing its health insurance exchange - making it the first state in the nation to do so since Congress passed health reform. Other states have set up task forces to study how the health insurance exchanges will operate. Some states may operate only one exchange or set up separate exchanges for different regions.
For more, see health care reform: health insurance exchanges.