For policy wonks and those who follow the industry (myself included), there was a resounding, "huh?" after reading that sentence. But, on closer inspection of previous information released about exchanges by HHS, there were references to the term marketplace to describe the exchanges earlier than January 16. The first one I found was dated from February 2011. In describing the consumer-operated and -oriented plans, the release explains:
"By January 1, 2014, you may be able to buy a CO-OP health plan through a new competitive health care marketplace in your state, called an Affordable Insurance Exchange. You may also be able to buy a CO-OP health plan outside of an Exchange."
Now that information about insurance exchanges is getting out to Americans who will be eligible for coverage, it may be that HHS is trying out the term marketplace to better describe how the exchanges will work. That's the theory of one state working closely with HHS to get its state insurance exchange ready for October.
"I think the [term] marketplace—it may have resonated when we started talking about marketplace assisters," says Rita Landgraf, Delaware's Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services.
Landgraf is referring to the In-Person Assisters (IPA) the law calls for to help consumers understand the exchanges and their options. Delaware, which will partner with the federal government to run its insurance exchange, is calling its IPAs marketplace assisters.
Landgraf doesn't know why HHS started using the term marketplace, but she says it does do a better job of describing what exchanges are to the average consumer.
"If they're going to call that entity a marketplace assister... what are they assisting? They're assisting that consumer in that marketplace."