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Web broker wants to run exchange enrollment

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A Web-based health insurance broker, eHealth Inc. (Nasdaq:EHTH), wants permission to run the enrollment process in the 36 states where the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in charge.

Gary Lauer, the chief executive of eHealth, said his company would take over the enrollment process now based on the troubled website in exchange for getting permission to enroll consumers who are eligible for the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health insurance subsidies in exchange plans.

The company would get paid by earning commissions, Lauer said.

“Let the federal government focus on the backside,” Lauer said. “We’ll be the front-end, consumer-focused enrollment mechanism. We think this is a great marriage.”

The company would welcome other Web brokers in the enrollment process, Lauer added.

Lauer has already presented the idea to President Obama in a public letter.

The company has a deal right now to connect with the HHS “data services hub,” through and help consumers enroll in exchange plans, but the company hasn’t been able to plug in yet because of the technical difficulties, Lauer said.

If eHealth could connect directly with the data hub, rather than going through, it could have an alternative to operating “in a very short time.”

Lauer declined to give more details about how long he thinks setting up an alternative system would take.

Getting “all hands on deck” to help with enrollment could boost the numbers and help hold down individual prices, Lauer said.

Some Republican members of Congress have said they believe participating carriers can’t release enrollment data because of an HHS directive.

Lauer said that eHealth has received no similar directive, and he’s talked freely about his views on the problems.

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