Web-based brokers that have signed agreements so far include eHealth, the largest insurance Web broker in the country, and Getinsured.com, the CMS said. These agreements include a number of security and privacy considerations to ensure that consumers' data and information will be protected. The next step is working with these Web-based brokers to test the application programming interface and ensure that their Web portals will be operational for open enrollment.
Web-based brokers offer insurance and enrollment through a website directly, though individuals can chat online or via phone with a live registered broker. Unlike exchange navigators and other in-person assistors available to help people enroll in exchange coverage, Web-based brokers will be able to recommend health plans to a customer.
Gary Lauer, eHealth's CEO, says allowing Web-based brokers to facilitate enrollment on exchanges—including helping those who are eligible for subsidies—is a win-win for consumers and the government.
“The ACA is going to succeed or fail based on enrollment,” he says. “It's critically important that there are multiple paths to enrollment … and (Web-based brokers) are another power pathway to enrollment.”
Lauer added that WBEs will save the government money because they will be paid directly by insurers through commissions.
Brian Cook, a CMS spokesman, said, “We have worked to ensure consumers will have a wide range of ways to sign up for health coverage this fall, including working to ensure Web-based brokers a part of this effort. We have developed ways to integrate many private Web-based brokers with the Marketplace website, which will allow consumers to simultaneously apply for coverage and tax credits.”
eHealth is also seeking authority to enroll people in the 14 state-run exchanges, Lauer says. But last month, exchange officials in California and New York said they would not allow Web-based brokers to enroll people in their exchange, citing logistical issues.
Not everyone is happy about Web-based brokers selling exchange plans. In its comments to a proposed rule on Web-based brokers, consumer advocacy group Families USA expressed concerns that these brokers might steer consumers to plans that are better for the brokers but may not be best for the consumer.