Eight Democratic senators are finally asking the Obama Administration to let startups act as an alternative to the malfunctioning healthcare website, Healthcare.gov. “There are long-term advantages to providing Americans multiple ways to find and sign up for the health coverage that best meets their needs,” reads the letter to the Department of Health And Human Services [PDF].
I’ve been writing about this since I discovered that tech companies could have likely saved the Affordable Care Act from an IT epic failure had the feds legally allowed startups to enroll new consumers.
From the beginning, Obamacare made government-run websites the hub of all new enrollments. Startups and tech companies, such as Fuse Insurance, which are building Orbitz-like price-comparison health insurance alternatives, still have to route all traffic through government websites. Some states, including California and New York, have just completely denied tech companies access for a few years.
As the key Thanksgiving holiday approaches without a working Healthcare.gov, HHS began to let big insurance companies enroll new consumers, but tech companies are still left waiting. Even worse, the insurance companies still have to route traffic through the malfunctioning federal website, so the pilot is still a theoretical hope.
According to sources familiar with matter, the federal government can’t let tech companies directly access the database like the state e-commerce sites (“exchanges”), because the IRS forbids private access to their data. Technically speaking, tech companies could build a fully functioning alternative, but they couldn’t determine income-based discounts, which would defeat the purpose of the new law.
It’s not clear what the senators’ push could accomplish. When we find out, we’ll let you know.