New CMS direct enrollment process bypasses Healthcare.gov

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Wednesday unveiled a new process for direct enrollment online in 2018 that the federal agency said would make comparing and purchasing health plans easier for consumers.

This new process also will have the effect of reducing the number of visitors – and thus the relevance – of Healthcare.gov. Up until now, consumers trying to sign up for health coverage through a third-party site would be redirected to Healthcare.gov to finish the application.

But starting in the 2018 open enrollment period, which should begin in about six months, CMS will allow individuals to complete the enrollment process on the third-party site.

CMS said the new process “reduces needless regulatory burden for businesses that provide direct enrollment services and offers consumers easier access to healthcare comparisons and shopping experiences for coverage offered through HealthCare.gov.”

As a major component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed as law under President Obama, Healthcare.gov has been a frequent target of criticism by opponents of the ACA. Meanwhile, supporters of “Obamacare” accused the Trump administration of undermining Healthcare.gov by pulling promotional ads in late January designed to inform consumers about the pending open enrollment deadline.

“It is common sense to make it as simple and easy as possible for consumers to shop for and access health coverage,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with private partners to make sure these streamlined enrollment pathways are available, secure, and ensure a high degree of program integrity.”

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