hour-glass

By Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein
Thursday, November 28, 2013

Days before the Obama administration’s self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline for fixing HealthCare.gov, its technology team is scrambling to build a new part of the Web site as a workaround that would enable more people to buy health insurance without relying directly on the site.

The new mechanism, EZ App, would permit people who are eligible for financial help from the government to enroll for coverage without calculating an exact subsidy amount, which has been a major stumbling block, according to government and insurance industry officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be frank. It would allow call centers, and eventually insurance companies and brokers, to help people enroll based on estimates of what their federal subsidies would be.

But insurers are uncomfortable with the add-on because they do not want to shoulder the financial liability for customers signing up for plans with a rough estimate of their final premiums, rather than a precise figure verified through the site.

The workaround, aimed at diverting consumers from the Web site, is the latest indication that significant uncertainty remains about how the government will handle the large number of people who are likely to want to sign up for health plans soon.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will delay a significant piece of the health-care law: the online small business insurance marketplace.

The Small Business Health Options Program, known as the SHOP exchange, will not offer online enrollment until November 2014, a one-year delay from a launch that was initially planned for last month.

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