CHICAGO, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Illinois is the 21st state to be approved to operate a healthcare exchange, with enrollment to begin in October, a top U.S. health official said Wednesday.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the exchange -- called a State Partnership Marketplace -- would allow Illinois to make key decisions and tailor the available options to local needs and market conditions.
"I applaud efforts by Illinois to build a new health insurance marketplace," Sebelius said at a news conference in Chicago. "Working together, we will be ready in eight months when residents of Illinois will be able to use the new marketplace to easily purchase quality, affordable health insurance plans."
With today's conditional approval of Illinois, 20 states and the District of Columbia were conditionally approved to partially or fully run a marketplace -- with the remaining states having until Friday to apply.
Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers and small businesses will next January have access to a new marketplace where they can access quality, affordable private health plans, Sebelius said.
The plans will ensure people have the same kinds of insurance choices as members of Congress and that they can't be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, Sebelius said.