The Obama administration is developing contingency plans that would allow the federal government to step in and assume operational control of 17 states’ health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act if state exchanges are not ready for enrollment by the October 1 deadline.

Under the ACA, states must create health insurance exchanges to provide more affordable coverage options to individuals and small businesses. States can operate their own exchange, ask the federal government to run an exchange for them or partner with the government to operate an exchange. Beginning in January 2014, the government will run exchanges in 26 states, seven states will partner with the federal government, and 17 states and D.C. will operate their own exchanges.

The ACA mandates that the federal government operate an exchange in any state that is unwilling or unable to create its own.