Health officials announced Monday that they had reached an agreement with a group of companies to provide free healthcare.com proxy services to consumers, giving them access to a marketplace that was previously only available to a small number of health plans.
The announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) marks the second such deal for a proxy-provider in less than two weeks, and comes amid growing concerns that the healthcare system is in trouble.
“This is an exciting development in the healthcare industry, where health care providers are offering consumers the opportunity to purchase health insurance from the marketplace on a 24/7 basis, free of charge,” Dr. Paul S. Frieden, director of the Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a statement.
The new arrangement allows companies to sell health insurance to consumers at a cheaper rate than other options.
“The new partnership is a key step toward providing more choice to consumers by eliminating barriers to purchasing health insurance,” the CMS said in its announcement.
“In this agreement, we will allow companies to offer a wide range of products to help consumers make a better choice in the marketplace.”
The healthcare.coverage.com site was launched in March 2016 to help people buy coverage through Healthcare.gov.
The first sign that Healthcare.com was going to be hit with competition from proxy firms was a February 2016 blog post from Healthcare.covers.com, a proxy service.
Healthcare.ca and Healthcare.cc were already offering free proxy services for their customers.
The companies have said they would not have launched Healthcare.net, a competing marketplace, if the health law did not allow them to.
The CMS also said it would allow proxy companies to expand their offerings to include some of the most popular insurance plans offered by large insurers such as UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, and Humana.
“Consumers have been asking for affordable healthcare options, and now they can get them,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in the statement.
“I look forward to working with the companies to build a better marketplace for our consumers.”