It’s a situation no one anticipated when the Affordable Care Act was written. The law assumed states would create and operate their own exchanges, and set aside billions in grants for that purpose.

“There’s no way around it — this is a big job,” said Sabrina Corlette, a health policy expert at Georgetown University.

Since different states have different insurance markets and different eligibility requirements for Medicaid, Obama’s Health and Human Services Department can’t simply take a system off the shelf as a one-size-fits all failsafe.

“You can’t simply deploy one federal exchange across the board,” said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Each state is different — their eligibility systems are different, their insurance markets are different. [HHS is] going to have to build these exchanges to fit into the context of each state.”