States had the flexibility to design and operate exchanges that best met their unique needs while complying with ACA’s statutory and regulatory standards. All the states had to make a choice regarding what kind of exchange they wanted. Basically, the states could:
• Build a fully state-based exchange;
• Default to a federal exchange (often referred to as a “federally facilitated exchange”); or
• Enter into a state partnership exchange with the federal government.
Each state had to establish an exchange where individuals can go to buy coverage, but the states also had to set up Small Business Health Options Programs (SHOPs or SHOP exchanges) where small businesses can purchase coverage.
Hawaii initially created its own state-based exchange, Hawaii Health Connector, but decided in 2015 to shut it down. Hawaii residents can now obtain coverage through the federal marketplace. Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations runs the state’s SHOP program.