Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has sent word to Washington that Virginia will maintain control over how insurance plans are managed as the new federal health care law is implemented.

McDonnell (R) told federal officials in December the commonwealth would operate under a federal health care exchange and would not set up a state exchange. Under the exchanges, people can shop for health insurance provided by the law.

McDonnell informed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a letter dated Thursday that he plans to sign legislation pending in the General Assembly authorizing the Virginia Bureau of Insurance to manage the health plans. The agency would be able to certify plans, collect information on plan rates and benefits, ensure plan compliance and resolve consumer complaints, provide technical assistance and decertify health care issuers.

The House approved an amended version of the bill on Thursday by a vote of 64 to 35.

“The [federal health care law] is the law of the land, and Virginia will comply with its mandates,” McDonnell said in a statement Thursday. “However, I remain vigilant in ensuring that Virginia will not bear the financial burden of establishing this new bureaucracy only to be given limited ability to manage its outcomes.”

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recently recommended changes to the bill, which he says now makes clear that the state is cooperating with the federal government, not creating a state exchange, according to spokesman Brian Gottstein.

Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) opposed the bill, calling it “a distinction without a difference.”

“It is an illusion to suggest that we could pass this and not be operating and working in collaboration with the federal government,” Marshall said Thursday.