Wilmington, Del. Skyline. AP Photo: Chris Gardner

U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has approved plans by Delaware to set up a partnership exchange.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) calls for states and federal agencies to work to provide exchange services, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets, for eligible individuals and small businesses in all states and the District of Columbia by 2014.

States can choose to operate their own state-based exchange; let HHS provide exchange services for their residents through a federally facilitated exchange; or share exchange management duties with HHS by setting up a partnership exchange.

HHS also has approved efforts by Minnesota and Rhode Island to set up state-based exchanges this week.

HHS asked states to let it know about plans to start state-based exchanges by mid-Cember. Notices of intent to set up partnership exchanges are due Feb. 15, 2013.

Delaware exchange designers are expecting the Delaware exchange to serve about 35,000 people, state officials said.

“The state will retain control of plan management, including state requirements for qualified health plans, as well as the consumer assistance function,” officials said.

Last week, HHS approved state-based exchange development notices filed by Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregons and Washington, HHS officials said.

HHS officials note that the approvals given so far are conditional approvals that indicate that states are on track to have exchanges up and running by 2014.

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