Call it Obamacare 2.0.
The federal government has signed five landmark deals that set the stage for major Web insurance markeplaces to enroll potentially millions of people in Obamacare, CNBC learned late Wednesday.
Those deals, experts have said, could dramatically boost enrollment in those marketplaces and help keep premium costs low—both key goals of the Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama in 2010—by drawing customers who land at the sites of eHealthInsurance.com, GetInsured.com and others through Google searches, among other avenues.
The breakthrough, which came after months of negotiations, lays the groundwork for the Web exchanges to begin enrolling people who qualify for government insurance subsidies in the 36 marketplaces that the federal government is either running for individual states or in partnership with states this year.
Those solely federal or mixed exchanges, which cover areas where nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population lives, open enrollment Oct. 1.
CNBC.com first revealed Wednesday morning that eHealthInsurance.com had signed such a deal with the government—news that sparked a massive run-up in the stock of its parent company, eHealth, which was trading at one point as much as 30 percent over its opening price.
Hours later, it was disclosed that that GetInsured.com and three other site had signed similar deals with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Other Web markets have also applied for similar deals, which are expected to be signed on a rolling basis, according to CMS.
"I'm pleased to confirm" that news, Chini Krishan, CEO of GetInsured.com told CNBC.com when asked about his company's deal. "We think this offers the potential to service millions of customers."
"I think it is going to make a major difference in enrollment rates," he added.
But for now, GetInsured, eHealth and all other Web-based markets remain effectively locked out of doing the same kind of subsidized business with the remaining 15 exchanges being operated by individual states and by the District of Columbia. Both California and New York have opted out of such deals, as least for the first year of their exchange's operation.
"We have worked to ensure that consumers will have a wide range of ways to sign up for health coverage this fall, including working to ensure Web-based brokers as part of this effort," said Brian Cook, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
"We have developed ways to integrate many private, Web-based brokers with the marketplace website, which will allow consumers to simultaneously apply for coverage and tax credits," he said. "We have signed agreements with several such brokers, incuding eHealth, that will allow them to sign consumers up for coverage."