Government and industry experts say recent guidance from the federal government will hasten development of state insurance exchanges, mandated under the Accountable Care Act to give consumers and small employers a one-stop shopping site to compare and purchase health care coverage. The exchanges, in turn, will affect employers' long-range benefit sponsorship decisions.

Experts say that over the next 18 months, states will be learning more about expectations, potential models and necessary partnerships. States must build the exchanges by 2014; they must notify the federal government by 2013 if they will not build an exchange, in which case the feds will provide one.

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