Fewer Web broker entities are connecting their health insurance distribution pipes to HealthCare.gov computers.
HealthCare.gov had connections with 57 Web broker entities on Sept. 15, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
The number of connections was down from 62 in May, and it was down 34 percent, from an all-time high of 82, in March.
The drop could be a sign that top-level health insurance distributors are less interested in the Affordable Care Act exchange system, or that CMS is being tougher on would-be HealthCare.gov plan distributors.
HealthCare.gov and other ACA exchange programs are getting ready to start their fourth open annual enrollment period Nov. 1. The sales season for 2017 individual health coverage is set to end Jan. 31.
Related: HealthCare.gov Web broker list shrinks
ACA drafters created the exchange system in an effort to make the individual health insurance market more efficient, by giving people an easy way to shop for coverage.
Originally, ACA drafters assumed most states would run their own exchange programs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the parent of CMS, set up HealthCare.gov to provide exchange enrollment and policy administration services for residents of states that were unwilling or unable to handle the job themselves. For 2017, HealthCare.gov will handle individual exchange plan enrollment for individuals and families in 39 states.
A typical Web broker entity connects with HealthCare.gov to feed HealthCare.gov plan sales information into its own Web-based insurance supermarket, or to rent its HealthCare.gov plan pipes to retail agents and brokers.