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Major tech problems at several state Obamacare enrollment websites are so bad that the federal government Thursday said it would give some people who in frustration bought health insurance outside those websites the tax subsidies that otherwise would be unavailable to them.
While the latest Obamacare fix, laid out in a complex, densely worded "guidance," will affect a relatively small number of people, it is the first time that those subsidies are being allowed to be used for Affordable Care Act-compliant insurance plans bought outside the government-run health exchanges.
As part of the fix, the government also will allow people not yet enrolled in health insurance since Jan. 1 because of ongoing problems with some states' Obamacare marketplaces to be covered retroactively once they obtain a plan from their state's marketplace. Cost reduction subsidies also will be applied retroactively, according to the rule change by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
(Read more: Tax prep firms want to know: Got Obamacare? )
The fix is aimed at the "small number" of states whose Obamacare enrollments have been dramatically crippled by their flawed ACA websites, according to a CMS official.
Those states are understood to include Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Nevada, which are all operating their own Obamacare websites.
The fix is available to states that adopt a formal process laid out by CMS. No state is obligated to implement the loosened rules.
The major change relates to Obamacare subsidies. Those tax credits, which offset the cost of insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses, are available to low- and moderate-income people who enroll in Obamacare insurance.
Under the new fix, a person in the affected states must have begun an application on their Obamacare exchange, but still be waiting for a determination of their eligibility for subsidies to offset the cost of insurance premiums.
In properly functioning Obamacare exchanges, there is essentially no lag in making such eligibility determinations electronically, but in some states there is the "extraordinary" problem of a long, ongoing lag, the official said.
In affected states, a person who bought health insurance from a plan outside the exchange while awaiting their subsidy determination will receive subsidies if it turns out they are deemed eligible for the credits, according to the rule change.
(Read more: Obamacare hits 4 million sign-ups as bar lowers)
"CMS is committed to supporting state efforts to successfully implement their marketplaces," the agency said in a statement. "We recognize that some states have experienced difficulties in processing automated eligibility determinations and enrollments, and today we released guidance providing options to marketplaces to ensure eligible consumers have access to financial assistance and issuers are paid."
"We will continue to work closely with states to assist them in moving forward with their marketplaces so that all consumers can take advantage of their new coverage options."
U.S. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, R-Pa., blasted the rule change, which is just the latest in a series of fixes, loosened regulations and time extensions that the Obama administration has implemented in connection with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
"It is outrageous for the Obama administration to be quietly telling states: pay subsidies now, worry about the paperwork later. The administration is blatantly ignoring the law, paying subsidies to plans outside of exchanges," Pitts said.
"Additionally, this 'pay now, verify later' directive could be a boon for fraudsters, raising the administration's unaccountability to the likes we have not seen. Once again, the self-proclaimed 'most transparent administration in history' is caught trying to hide another change from the public. The unilateral delays and changes have been rampant. The American people deserve better—they deserve fairness for all."
—By CNBC's Dan Mangan. Follow him on Twitter