A new private health insurance marketplace is allowing Americans who qualify for Obamacare subsidies to bypass Healthcare.gov to enroll in health insurance plans while the government’s website is going through numerous fixes. The workaround by GoHealth.com is reportedly the first functional non-government site that enables Americans to enroll in Obamacare plans.
According to the company, it “confirmed a Web-Broker Entity agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)” in August, “allowing the company to instantly quote rates, calculate tax credits and subsidies and enroll consumers in health plans created by the new health reform law.”
The company said online visitors will be able to “window-shop for insurance plans” and “get a rough sense of their eligibility for insurance and start the enrollment process online.” But customers will need to speak to a GoHealth representative to actually enroll and get subsidy approval, which can take 30 to 60 minutes and apparently “falls well short of the original plan by federal officials to allow GoHealth and other Web insurance markets to electronically complete such enrollments via their own sites when HealthCare.gov launched nearly two months ago.”
“I am proud to announce that everything is working and we are now live. Americans who need health insurance can successfully enroll in a 2014 health plan and obtain financial assistance, if eligible,” said Shane Cruz, Senior Vice President of Technology at GoHealth, in a statement. “Our platform is operational and our team has been working tirelessly to get our integration functional so we can get Americans enrolled in the coverage they desire.”
According to CNBC, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last summer “began signing deals with private Web insurance markets including GoHealth, eHealth and GetInsured to allow them to enroll their own customers in the same plans being sold on HealthCare.gov, and giving them access to the same subsidies available to people who directly shopped through those plans on HealthCare.gov.” In return, CMS was hoping more people would be able to enroll in exchange for the commissions to the companies like GoHealth.
Last week, CMS officials indicated more private markets may be functional soon, allowing increasing numbers of people to potentially enroll in various health insurance programs.
There are some caveats. The “company does not operate in four states–Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont”–and “online visitors will be alerted of as soon as they enter their ZIP code on GoHealth’s site.”
In addition, “there are eight states whose residents are still not yet able to shop online at GoHealth because of delays the company has had integrating with some insurance carriers.” Residents in Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, and West Virginia “will be given directions from the website to call GoHealth reps directly to perform their enrollment on the phone.”