Obama Administration response to online health insurance site is cool, but proposal reveals backup possibility. EHealth offers to help Covered California, too.
Aneesh Chopra, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former chief technology officer of the U.S., told InformationWeek Healthcare in an e-mail, "I see great potential in the growth of web-based entities as a safe, secure option for consumers in addition to healthcare.gov, but not as a replacement. There is plenty of room in the market for multiple enrollment options as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act."
At the eHealth news conference, Lauer also asked Covered California, that state's health insurance exchange, to allow Web insurance brokers to enroll people alongside the state's own efforts. Part of his argument -- as it was in the Obama letter -- is that people ages 18 to 34 would be more likely to enroll in the exchanges through an easy-to-use consumer website, and the insurance exchanges badly need those healthy young people to keep insurance rates down.
He added that, because the health plans pay online brokers, it costs the state nothing to let them enroll people in Covered California plans. In fact, the state would make money on these sign-ups because insurance companies are required to pay enrollment fees to support Covered California.
Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which includes eHealth and many other tech companies, echoed Lauer's call for the state insurance exchange to open up to Web brokers. Speaking at the news conference, he said that Covered California should call on the expertise of not only eHealth, but also of the other experienced e-commerce companies based in Silicon Valley.
The young healthy people who are crucial to the success of the exchange, he said, "expect government insurance exchange websites to work like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter." So the government has to deliver a website that is equally consumer friendly and easy to navigate as any of these companies' sites.
"The state's goal of 1.2 million enrollments by the end of 2014 will be difficult to reach without a public-private partnership to take advantage of the innovation and the technology that the private sector can offer. So I encourage and ask Covered Calif. to strongly consider utilizing the assistance of Silicon Valley's e-commerce leaders to expand access to all Californians and make the ACA the success that the citizens of our state deserve."
Covered California did not respond to a call from InformationWeek Healthcare by press time. According to its website, in the first four weeks of enrollment there were 2.1 million unique visitors, of whom nearly 180,000 started applications.