The Obama administration gave new life Monday to the idea of working with insurance companies to help them sign people up for health coverage outside of the troubled federal website, HealthCare.gov.
"We are working to set up direct enrollment through insurance companies so that Americans could choose to enroll directly through the insurance company," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a daily press briefing after reporters asked about the possibility. "We’re interested in engaging or opening as many channels for enrollment as possible."
That makes sense on one hand because the administration wants to enroll as many people as possible -- but on the other hand, it comes through the sacrifice of the competitive nature of the online marketplace, where insurers were supposed to vie for consumers' business. That was a big part of President Obama's pitch prior to the Oct. 1 launch.
"It’s a website where you can compare and purchase affordable health insurance plans, side-by-side, the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak, the same way you shop for a TV on Amazon. You just go on and you start looking, and here are all the options," he said on Sept. 26. "Now you've got new competition, because insurers want your business. And that means you will have cheaper prices."
But after HealthCare.gov's struggles since its launch, losing that feature for some people might be a price that Obamacare supporters have to accept.
"In terms of overcoming these initial glitches, I think this is fine," Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped craft the law, told TPM. "We're transforming the way health insurance is shopped. If it takes an extra few months, it's not the end of the world. We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good here."
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