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Ohio won't set up state health-care exchange

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio won’t set up its own health insurance exchange, but is instead opting for a partnership with the federal government to run the new online market under President Obama’s health care law.

Republican Gov. John Kasich wrote in a Friday letter to the Obama administration that setting up a state-based exchange is too costly and gives states little control over how the exchange would operate.

“Regardless of who runs an exchange, the end product is the same,” he said.

Kasich’s administration has indicated for months that Ohio was leaning in this direction. State officials have noted their continued misgivings about the federal health care law, including what they say has been a lack of information from the federal government.

Kasich was adamant in the letter that Ohio would continue to regulate its health insurance market, oversee health plans, and make decisions around Medicaid eligibility. He said the Ohio Department of Insurance would retain its oversight over the insurance industry, “as it has done very effectively for more than 60 years.”

The administration said it would submit additional details on its plan to federal officials by mid-February.

Exchanges are online markets in which individual consumers and small businesses will shop for health insurance among competing private plans. They’ll be open for business on Jan. 1, 2014, but open enrollment for exchange plans will begin even sooner, on Oct. 1, 2013.

The exchanges are supposed to demystify the process of buying health insurance, allowing consumers to make apples-to-apples comparisons. Consumers will also be able to find out whether they’re eligible for new federal subsidies to help pay premiums, or whether they qualify for expanded Medicaid.

Ohio has yet to decide whether to broaden its Medicaid program, which serves the poor and people with disabilities. About 2.2 million Ohioans are currently enrolled in the nearly $19 billion program.

State officials have said they will take up the decision on the expansion in Ohio’s two-year budget, expected to be released in February.

More than 1.5 million Ohio residents are uninsured, or about 14 percent.

The federal law is expected to provide coverage to more than 30 million people nationwide through the exchanges and expanded Medicaid programs.

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