A state panel charged with deciding how federal health reform should be implemented in South Carolina made its official recommendations to the governor this week.

The group's opinion: South Carolina should not manage its own "exchange" where health coverage for individuals and small businesses will be sold once the new federal health care law takes full effect in 2014. Exchanges are the websites and hotlines where residents will buy coverage and apply for the federal tax credits intended to make insurance affordable.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gives states a choice between having a federal- or state-run exchange. But the S.C. Health Planning Committee wants private companies to band together to create their own marketplaces to sell insurance, a priority it first suggested last month.

Gov. Nikki Haley now must approve the recommendations. South Carolina's decision then would be submitted to the federal government.

The top U.S. health official told The Post and Courier Thursday she would review South Carolina's "private exchange" proposal, noting the state's specific intentions on its logistics remain unclear.

"I don't really know exactly what they're talking about," said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "We'll take a look at what they send to us."

Sebelius was in Charleston for a conference on health disparities.

States that choose not to manage their own systems will be subject to federally run exchanges, an outcome likely for South Carolina.