The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which was under a deadline of Jan. 1, 2013, to determine if the states were ready to set up health insurance exchanges as mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), but it has extended the deadline until Feb. 15.

Since only 18 states and the District of Columbia have so far received approval to set up an exchange, the department is hoping that the extension will give states more time to request approval to set up their own exchanges or partner with the federal government in doing so. The alternative is for the federal government to set up the state exchange by itself, absent a decision by the state to comply with PPACA.