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Utah governor asks Obama to accept state's health insurance exchange

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is asking President Barack Obama to approve a health insurance exchange the state already has in place and declare that it meets the requirements of the federal healthcare overhaul.

Herbert sent the letter Tuesday ahead of Friday's deadline for states to decide if they'll do their own exchange. Utah's exchange was launched on a limited basis in 2009 and fully implemented two years later.

The governor says that Utah's program gives 7,600 people and 318 small businesses a choice of 140 health insurance plans. The state is planning on expanding its exchange. The program was created to line up with Utah's "unique values, demographics, markets, and needs," Herbert wrote.Exchanges are online health insurance marketplaces pioneered in Utah and Massachusetts, although the two states have taken very different approaches.

Gov. Herbert asks the president to declare Utah's plan a model for other states. He says the plan required in the federal health care law would include fewer choices and make people more dependent on public programs.

Herbert says he needs answers to make a decision by Friday.

Under Obama's health care law, every state will have an exchange starting Jan. 1, 2014. The exchanges will provide one-stop shopping for individual consumers and small businesses.

Under the law, virtually every American must have health insurance starting in 2014. At the same time, insurers will be forbidden from turning down people in poor health or charging consumers more because of a pre-existing condition. The law also limits what insurers can charge older customers, who are more prone to health problems.

So far, 16 states and Washington, D.C., have said they will set up their own exchanges, while 19 Republican-led states have opted to allow the federal government in. Another seven states have picked the partnership model, and the rest are trying to decide. States that want to run their own exchanges have until Friday to submit plans, but the deadline for partnership applications isn't until February.

A recent AP poll found that Americans prefer that states have a strong hand in running the exchanges. Sixty-three percent said states should run the new markets, while 32% preferred federal control. Republicans heavily favored state control.

Herbert slammed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act in June, saying that while it "may be constitutional" it's still bad policy.

There are about 400,000 uninsured people in Utah, or about 14 percent of the population, according to figures from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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