The fiscal cliff wasn't the only important deadline in Washington today.
Today is the day the Secretary of Health and Human Services tells states whether their plans for health insurance exchanges pass muster. These are the new insurance marketplaces provided for under Obamacare.
24 states and the District of Columbia have applied to set up exchanges. Consumers in the rest of the states can use a single, federally-maintained exchange to help find coverage when the insurance mandate goes into effect a year from today.
Oregon is one state that's been near the head of the pack in setting up its exchange. Its version called CoverOregon, and Rocky King is the executive director.
He describes the plan that Oregon has laid out: "Just picture a house that you can walk through the front door -- no matter who you are -- give some information at a desk that's right there. And whether you are an individual that is eligible for Medicaid -- we can send you down the hallway to the room that you can enroll in Medicaid there. Or if you are a small group employer, you can go upstairs, and we're going to be able to allow you to shop for plans, enroll in those plans... all walking through that same door."
Increasing the choice to consumers will also reshape the health care industry, King adds. There will be standardized plans, he explains, so "for the first time, you don't have to call up a carrier and say, 'Now tell me what those benefits are again?'"
Instead, you'll be able to look it up, just like a Travelocity-type website: "What's first class, what's second class, what's coach? And compare those plans straight across. It's like putting up the nutritional value of the health care plans," he says.