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Dallas Morning News
Robert Garrett

Texas is among 24 states, including neighbors Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, that got an "incomplete" in a scorecard on health insurance exchanges that was released Tuesday by a consumer group's research arm.

Creation of state health insurance exchanges by late next year or early 2013 is a key goal of supporters of the federal health care overhaul. As the report by the TexPIRG Education Fund notes, the exchanges, envisioned as a sort of Travelocity site on the Internet where small businesses and individuals can shop for coverage, "offer the states the chance to address the twin problems of cost and quality." The group's scorecard is weighted heavily toward states designing exchanges that aren't dominated by the insurance industry, that are vigilant about not becoming a dumping ground for the chronically ill, that include employers of up to 100 people immediately and that are actively prodding consumers toward high-quality plans and plans that incorporate some of the new payment changes pegged to delivering better patient outcomes.

Among the first dozen states to be well down the road toward planning an exchange, only three got "As" -- Maryland , Massachusetts and Washington state. Texas is among 23 that have accepted federal planning grants but haven't sent a clear signal on whether they'll run their own exchanges or let the federal government come in and set one up. But Texas is not in the special category of recalcitrant states that have said basically no way, no how: Let the feds do it. They are Florida and Louisiana, the report notes.

Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Perry effectively killed a House Republican's bill that would've had the state take the lead in setting up the Texas exchange.

TexPIRG Education Fund is a nonprofit that educates the public, trying to offer Texans broader opportunities for civic participation. It's the sister organization of Texas Public Interest Research Group, a more visible group that advocates on consumer, environmental and transportation issues.

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