The administration is confident new federal health insurance markets will open as scheduled next week because they’ve outsourced some of the 36 federally-run exchanges to several private companies with years of experience in the health insurance business.
The new exchanges will launch Oct. 1 as part of ObamaCare – which is itself the subject of a current heated debate on Capitol Hill, where some Republicans are attempting to defund it.
The private companies will offer the same range of choices, and maybe more, than the federal government and at exactly the same prices.
Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute says the administration "wanted (the exchanges) to be completely government run. But what they learned as they went along is that they weren't competent to do it.
"They're now relying on these private companies to effectively bail them out and help them with some of the technology."
In fact, the administration signed contracts with seven private companies,which stand ready to crank up the exchanges next Tuesday.
Gary Lauer, the CEO of EHealth, says his company is ready to go and set "to help people find out whether they qualify for a subsidy or not, yes, we're ready right now. There's no if ands or buts about it."
Michael Mahoney, senior vice president of consumer marketing at GoHealth.com, confirms the private companies are ready to pick up the ball, adding, "we'd like to say we're the first option, but yes, anything they can't handle, we will be able to handle."
"Think of us as amazon.com of health insurance," says Lauer of EHealth. "But there's a much larger number of companies that have tried to do this and have not been successful. Ecommerce is not easy and that’s what we're talking about here with these government exchanges."
If these companies offer the same products at the same prices, and even save the government money, then why build a separate federal exchange at all?
"I can't get into why the government decided they needed to build this platform themselves," says Mahoney of GoHealth,”because there are several companies, especially ours, that operate a very effective marketplace already."
"Makes you wonder why we need the law in the first place doesn't it?" asks Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.
"I mean it seems like we could have built a reform around many of the activities that were already occurring in the private sector."
Meanwhile, President Obama, appearing with former President Bill Clinton, who has occasionally been critical of the health care law, said Tuesday health care had to be a priority, even with a struggling economy.
"A mom should not have to go bankrupt if her son or daughter gets sick," he said. "That a family dealing with a layoff and already struggling to pay off the bills shouldn’t also be wondering if they're one illness away from losing their home."