Sebelius highlights national health plans

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday highlighted the national healthcare plans that will be available through state-based insurance exchanges.

While taking questions from viewers of PBS' NewsHour, Sebelius was asked about exchanges' ability to promote competition in the insurance marketplace. Exchanges are intended to function as a "one-stop shop" for individuals and small businesses to compare and buy insurance.

It's up to states to decide whether they want to let their exchanges sell every policy that meets certain federal standards or impose tighter restrictions. Either way, the exchanges will bolster competition by making two nationwide plans available in every state, Sebelius said.

She also noted the nationwide policies when asked about the difficulty of maintaining coverage after moving to a new state.

"The health care law requires national plans be offered in each Affordable Insurance Exchange in every state and will be available to both individuals and small employers," she said. "Also, other plans in any given Exchange are likely to be offered by insurers with nationwide networks of providers, allowing for coverage outside a given state or metro area. But when a person moves from one state to another, they will need to choose their coverage in the Exchange in their new home state."

Sebelius also reiterated that states will determine the role of agents and brokers in their exchanges. Agents have complained that the new healthcare law will undermine their business, though HHS says there's a role for them to play in exchanges — particularly for small businesses.

A transcript of Sebelius's answers is here.