WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 -- The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee issued the following news release:
At a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) called on states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to keep up their progress building health insurance marketplaces. Senator Baucus helped create the marketplaces as part of the Affordable Care Act to allow consumers and small businesses to shop competitively for insurance plans. He called the marketplaces a vital part of the new health care law and said they must be up and running by the October 1 launch date to help America's families and small businesses access high-quality health care.
"For far too long, consumers in Montana and across the nation shopping for health insurance were left to fend for themselves. Health insurance marketplaces create a real opportunity for nearly every American to get comprehensive coverage by providing competitive, one-stop shopping for high-quality health care," Senator Baucus said. "Each state has a unique perspective on the opportunities and challenges in creating these marketplaces. Flexibility is the name of the game, because states like Montana have very different needs than states like New York. We need to make sure the health insurance marketplaces are up and running on day one so that families and small businesses can find a plan that fits their needs and budgets."
Marketplaces were designed to address a long-standing problem that individuals, families and small businesses have faced in the individual health insurance market - consumers have often been unable to find high-quality insurance plans at competitive prices. Plans were written in technical jargon and prices were unclear. As a result, consumers often struggled to find plans that fit their needs and budgets.
Large employers and groups, in contrast, were able to navigate past these problems. They would use the leverage that came with their size to negotiate for higher quality plans and more competitive prices.
Health insurance marketplaces will level the playing field, allowing individuals and small businesses to pool their purchasing power. Consumers will have access to one-stop shopping for insurance, much like they already do on the Web for airfare and hotel rooms.
As of early 2013, more than two dozen states plus the District of Columbia are either building marketplaces on their own or in partnership with the federal government. Remaining individuals, families and small businesses will have access to the federal marketplace being organized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Senator Baucus applauded HHS for giving states flexibility as they build marketplaces, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all solution.
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