The House on Saturday gave final passage to a bill to create a health insurance exchange that creates a quasi-public agency to develop and run an exchange where individuals and small businesses can buy health insurance.

The exchange does not have to be up and running until 2014 and if the state failed to set up the exchange the federal government would have done it for them. However, Democratic lawmakers said they felt it was necessary for Connecticut to set up its own exchange.

“This bill will provide much-needed relief to struggling families and small businesses unable to afford health insurance,” Rep. Robert Megna, D-New Haven, said. “It offers new tools for comparing health plan options, encourages competition among providers on price and quality and moves toward a goal of coverage portability.”

But Republicans like Rep. Jason Perillo wondered why the state was giving the quasi-public agency the authority to decide which plans will be offered in the exchange. They offered an amendment to open up the exchange, but it was defeated on a voice vote.

“The exchange as envisioned by the federal government is to create competition to help ensure that the uninsured are covered,” Perillo said. “I really do believe most of it is appropriate and most of it makes sense.“

In order to participate in the exchange private insurance companies must offer varying levels of coverage and premiums all of which will be searchable on an online database overseen by the quasi-public agency. It will also handle enrollment, payments, and other requirements. Each plan sold on the exchange must cover “essential health benefits,” which the federal government has yet to define.

The bill passed the House 108 to 30. It now goes to the governor.