WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Thursday gave states an extra month to say whether they plan to operate their own health insurance exchanges, after governors asked for more time in light of the Nov. 6 election, which ensured the survival of Obama's healthcare overhaul.
For the second time in six days, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius extended deadlines relating to the exchanges. On Thursday she sent a letter to governors telling them that states would now have until Dec. 14 to tell her department if they plan to set up an exchange.
The deadline for a letter of intent was originally set for midnight on Friday. Last week Sebelius told governors they would have until Dec. 14 to file a blueprint showing how their exchanges would operate.
"While receiving a letter of intent now will help us assist states in finalizing their application, a state may submit both a letter of intent and an application to operate its own exchange by Dec. 14," Sebelius said in a letter to Republican governors.
"States may also apply to operate their exchange in partnership with the federal government by Feb. 15, 2013. And a state may apply at any time to run an exchange in future years," she wrote.
The extensions are seen as concessions to dozens of states that delayed compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act until after the Nov. 6 election, which President Barack Obama won. Opponents of the plan had hoped a victory for Republican Mitt Romney would ultimately result in the law's repeal.
After Obama's victory, states needed more time to prepare for exchanges, which are complex marketplaces meant to offer working families private insurance at federally subsidized rates beginning in 2014.
"We are confident governors will have enough time to decide whether they want to establish an exchange, work in partnership with the federal government or have a federally facilitated exchange in their state," Sebelius wrote in the letter.