The Obama administration announced on Friday a new pilot program launching in Florida, Ohio and Texas that will allow insurers to enroll shoppers into Affordable Care Act plans directly. Insurers have been calling for this for a while, but this might not be the fix they're looking for: applications will still be routed through Healthcare.gov to check for eligibility and sent through the system's Data Services Hub to check for subsidy eligibility.
Earlier this month, White House officials acknowledged that there were plans to work with insurers to create additional avenues for enrollment, though they weren't willing to let insurers handle private tax information. In today's blog post, however, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julia Bataille wrote that direct enrollment has always been an option, but the website sucked too much. Now it sucks less:
The option of direct enrollment has been there from the start, and although some issuers have already begun using this option, it has been limited by recent problems with the website. However, we recently announced that we have put in place fixes for more than two-thirds of the high priority bugs related to the website.
The real hurdle here — besides increasing enrollment in three states with governments that vehemently opposed Obamacare — might be convincing conservatives that this fix is legal. As a few lawsuits have pointed out, the Affordable Care Act allows subsidies to be given to people who apply through exchanges set up by the state. Obviously the government didn't intend for most of the country to not be eligible for subsidies, but a DC judge recently refused to dismiss the case. And now, even though applications will be routed through the federal exchange, dissenters are calling foul again:
Reminder: You can’t get subsidies if you enroll outside an exchange http://t.co/mVxnaWZhBt— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) November 22, 2013
Of course, this is possibly the same political demographic that never thought Obamacare was legal in the first place. We're not sure this complaint will gain much traction.