Federal exchanges make deal with Web broker

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services may let a Web broker work with the public exchanges it expects to run in 36 states in 2014.

EHealth Inc. — the parent of eHealthInsurance.com, a 15-year-old commercial health insurance exchange — said CMS has agreed to let it connect with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exchange program "data hub."

EHealth could use information from the hub to help consumers enroll in the "qualified health plans" to be sold through the federal exchanges, the company said.

CMS, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is setting up the data hub to give federal and state agencies the network they need to exchange health program eligibility data, such as data from federal tax returns.

Before eHealth can start enrolling consumers in federal exchange QHPs, the company and CMS must sign another agreement that would give eHealth the authority to operate as an exchange agent or broker, the company said.

PPACA calls for HHS and state agencies to make exchanges available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by Oct. 1. The District of Columbia and 14 states are trying to set up their own, state-based exchanges.

Gary Lauer, chief executive officer of eHealth, said the company wants to work with exchanges throughout the country.

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