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The rules released today by the federal Department of Health and Human Services put states in the driver’s seat when it comes to setting up new health benefits exchanges. Exchanges are a centerpiece of the federal health reform law, allowing states to create new competitive marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can get a better deal on coverage. The regulations lay out the minimum standards a state will need to meet in order to run their own exchange, but states will need to make many additional decisions to ensure that their exchange serves consumers’ needs.
Today’s rules give Arizona leaders needed clarity on the legal framework governing exchanges, but HHS has released a menu, not a recipe. Arizona must go above the minimum requirements to empower our state’s exchange to negotiate on behalf of consumers for better rates and higher-value coverage; and Arizona must also ensure that the exchange is accountable to consumers, not the insurance industry.
These final rules update a series of drafts HHS released last year, and make several important changes, including a requirement that exchange governing boards include consumer representation, and improved safeguards for consumers’ personal information. These are positive steps – now it is up to Arizona to take the baton.
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