"This is not a new rodeo for these folks," said Keckley, noting eHealth's experience marketing their product, and ensuring its website shows up high in online searches for health insurance. "The fact that the state and federal exchanges are having problems connecting is what should be disappointing us."
But, he added, the rate of young adults signing up at eHealth is "incredibly good news to supporters of the Affordable Care Act" because it exceeds the rate the government estimated would be necessary to have stable risk pools for insurers.
Sebelius, during her New Jersey appearance, was asked by CNBC about why there was disparity between the young adult enrollment on the government exchanges and on eHealth's site.
She suggested that just because young adults are going to web brokers, "it doesn't necessarily mean that people are signing up outside the market." She also noted that if a young person earned too much money to qualify for government subsidies to buy insurance, they are not obligated to use public Obamacare exchanges to purchase their plans.
Sebelius' spokeswoman Joanne Peters later added, "As with any product, consumers shop in different ways for health insurance, and we have factored this into the health insurance marketplace."
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"Consumers have multiple ways to apply—whether it is through contacting the call center, receiving in-person help, applying online, or direct enrollment through an issuer or web broker—the marketplace offers consumers access to coverage options in the marketplace most comfortable for them," Peters said. "By strengthening the multiple channels to enroll in quality, affordable coverage through the marketplace, we are offering Americans more options to purchase new coverage."
Some of the plans sold via eHealth, and other web-based brokers, are the same plans being sold on the government-run exchanges. People who buy such plans via the brokers are joining the same risk pool as the people who buy those plans via the public exchanges, and that's what matters in figuring out prices for premiums in future years.
Sara Collins, an analyst with the Commonwealth Fund, said she anticipates a spike in young adult enrollment on the government exchanges before the deadline, as was seen after Massachusetts' "Romneycare" health marketplace launched.