(Washington Post) The Northern Mariana Islands are an American territory in the Pacific Ocean with 15 islands and 77,000 residents. Their population is roughly equal to that of Sante Fe, N.M. And, right now, the territory is at the center of the oddest health reform disaster you’ve never heard of.

Because of a quirk in the Affordable Care Act’s drafting, the Northern Mariana Islands and the four other American territories are subject to some parts of the law but not others. This has messed up the individual market in the Northern Mariana Islands so badly that the one plan selling policies there told the territory’s top insurance commissioner it would not sell new plans for 2014.

In other words: Beginning Jan. 1, regulators expect it will be literally impossible for an individual to buy a new policy in the Northern Mariana Islands, and difficult in other territories.

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