(Reuters) - The Obama administration gave states extra time to work on setting up new health insurance exchanges on Friday, three days after President Barack Obama's re-election ensured the survival of his healthcare reform law.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said states must still tell her department by November 16 if they plan to set up their own health insurance exchanges.
But they now have an additional month, until December 14, to file a blueprint showing how the exchange would operate, as outlined in a letter from Sebelius to state governors dated November 9.
The administration also gave states an additional three months, until February 15, 2013, to say whether they would prefer instead to set up an exchange in partnership with the federal government.
States would also be able to apply to run exchanges in subsequent years.
But Sebelius said the extended deadlines do not change the official January 1, 2014, start date for exchanges to begin offering consumers federally subsidized private insurance coverage in all 50 states.
"We have heard from many states that additional time would allow you to submit a more comprehensive, complete blueprint application for your exchange," the secretary said in the letter released by the administration.
She also promised further federal guidance "in the very near future" to helps states prepare for exchanges.
The healthcare law, known as the Affordable Care Act, would extend health coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans beginning in 2014.
About half of them would be working families able to purchase private insurance through the exchanges. The other half would be covered by an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor.