The promoters the new public health insurance exchanges drewmillions of prospects out of the bushes — and dropped many intoprivate marketers' hands.

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Organizers of the new federal and state-based Patient Protectionand Affordable Care Act exchanges spent tens of millions of dollarson advertising and public relations.

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The public exchange websites and call centers had a hardtime responding to all of the leads the marketersgenerated.

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Some private companies are prospering by providingsmoothly functioning alternatives to the U.S. Department of Healthand Human Services' HealthCare.gov "qualified health plan"enrollment system."

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GetInsured.com is celebrating its success atbecoming the first Web broker to give consumersthe ability to apply for federal exchange plan coverage — and QHPtax credit subsidies — completely online, through a regular,non-experimental service.

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Genius Avenue, a health insurance website enrollment andadministration services, company, develops systems for benefit planadministrators, brokerage agencies, associations and otherorganizations that want to go online to sell products like dentalinsurance, identity theft protection, health screening services,and the limited-benefit medical benefits that fall outside thereach of PPACA.

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Ben Rozum, the chief executive officer, said in an interviewthat activity at clients' sites has been strong since Oct. 1, whenthe public exchange open enrollment period.

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In January, activity at many of the sites was 25 percent to 40percent higher than normal, Rozum said.

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In 2012, he saw the distributors he serves reacting to PPACAwith confusion. In 2013, the confusion began toclear. Today, he sees the exchange plan open enrollmentseason "creating noise" and giving him a chance to startconversations with brokers.

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"They're trying to figure out ways to be innovative," Rozumsaid.

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A publicly traded Web broker, EHealth, has put the effects ofthe exchange plan open enrollment period in a quarterly reportfiled with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission.

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Thanks, largely, to the PPACA frenzy, the company saw the numberof new individual and family customers covered grow 19 percent inthe fourth quarter of 2013. That was up from a growth rate of just3 percent a year earlier.

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One sign of eHealth profiting from HealthCare.gov's pain: Eventhough the pricing rules in the non-exchange market are now thesame as the rules in the public exchange market, about 40 percentof eHealth's fourth-quarter coverage applicants were in the highlycoveted, typically healthy 18-to-34 age bracket, compared with just24 percent at HealthCare.gov.

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One question is whether QHP publicity will boost salesonly during the winter open enrollment season. Executives ateHealth noted during a call with securities analysts that the QHPcould generate leads year round, because many consumers willqualify to buy coverage outside the normal open-enrollment periodswhen they move, lose their jobs or go through other major lifeevents.

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Allison Bell

Allison Bell, ThinkAdvisor's insurance editor, previously was LifeHealthPro's health insurance editor. She has a bachelor's degree in economics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Think_Allison.