Obama Administration Prepares Workaround For Troubled Obamacare Website

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. David Ake

As the Obama administration scrambles to get the beleaguered website working for the majority of users by the end of the month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are working on a contingency plan to that will let insurance companies directly enroll Americans — including those who are eligible for Obamacare subsidies — into marketplace health plans without relying on the online portal.

Administration officials told reporters that they will soon give insurers the technological capability to accept subsidy applications and directly enroll consumers into plans during a conference call on Tuesday. Insurance companies have already been able to enroll those who don’t qualify for subsidies, but early problems with had previously made it impossible for CMS officials to give them the ability to do the same for subsidy eligible Americans.

The Huffington Post’s Jeff Young notes that consumers using the direct enrollment option won’t be able to comparison shop for plans. But these Americans could actually turn to third-party alternatives that let consumers window shop for policies instead. For instance, Andrew Sprung has highlighted two sites, Value Penguin and Health Sherpa, that give consumers accurate quotes and even subsidy estimates for Obamacare marketplace plans.

In the meantime, itself and several state Obamacare marketplaces have been making steady improvements. CMS officials noted that about two-thirds of the major bugs they first identified have been fixed, and about double the number of people who signed up for coverage through the federal site in all of October enrolled in a plan in the first two weeks of November alone. Several state-run marketplaces have seen similar surges in Obamacare enrollment this month.

There’s still a long way to go before all of Obamacare’s technical kinks get worked out, and the gloomy media coverage surrounding the various problems has led to record low approval numbers for the president and his signature health law. But these same polls show that more Americans would prefer to fix Obamacare’s problems than scrap health care reform altogether.