(Reuters) In a boost for President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, two states in the Northwest said on Friday that insurance companies submitted applications to sell policies on the states’ health insurance exchanges at rates well below what some insurance executives had predicted.

The insurance marketplaces are a key element of the reform law, which is due to take full effect in 2014. A core principle of these exchanges is that competition, along with government subsidies and other measures, will keep rates affordable.

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