MIAMI (AP) -

Florida health advocates are urging the federal government to run the state health exchange, saying Florida officials dragged their heels and have missed crucial deadlines.

   Florida CHAIN and several other groups sent a letter Thursday telling U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the state hasn't had any public meetings or done any of the other legwork that other states have spent months working on. They say it's not realistic for the state to create a quality program in time for federal deadlines.

   Nearly 9,000 Floridians have signed a petition backing the request.

   The exchange is an online marketplace where residents can shop for health insurance.

   Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been a vocal opponent of "Obamacare" but recently softened his stance