Connecticut has received conditional approval from the federal government for its plan to develop a health insurance exchange, making it one of six states to achieve the designation, officials announced Monday.

The exchange will be a virtual store for people to buy health insurance as part of the federal health reform law. It’s tentatively scheduled to begin selling health plans — expected to be offered by private insurance carriers — Oct. 1, 2013, with coverage that would begin Jan. 1, 2014.

During a conference call with reporters, Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the conditional approval meant that Connecticut and the other five states are on track to meet all deadlines for setting up their exchanges.

The approval is conditional on the state demonstrating that it can perform all required exchange activities as proposed in the application, and complying with federal guidance and regulations.

The other states to receive conditional approval are Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Maryland.

In all, 14 states and the District of Columbia have applied to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to run state-based exchanges, said Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight and CMS deputy administrator. Cohen said no applications have been rejected. The six approved conditionally were the first to be submitted, he said.

While some states have been slow to commit to creating exchanges, or have chosen to not develop them, Connecticut officials have embraced it and established a quasi-public agency to develop and run the exchange. For now the work is being funded with more than $100 million in federal grants. By 2015, the exchange must be financially self-sustaining, and the exchange staff is exploring funding options. Those could include charging insurance carriers a certain percentage of the premiums of plans sold on the exchange, or charging them a certain amount for each member.

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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