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EHealth jumps as co. reaches deal with government

NEW YORK (AP) -- EHealth's stock rose to its highest point in more than five years on Wednesday, as the online health insurance exchange reached a deal with the federal government that will help enroll tax-subsidy-eligible residents of 36 states in qualified health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.

THE SPARK: EHealth Inc. said that it reached an agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that allows it to access the federal electronic data system that helps determine a resident's tax subsidy eligibility and the amount of the subsidy.

EHealth and the CMS will still need to sign another agreement that covers the federal requirements for agents and brokers before the company can start enrolling subsidy-eligible residents into qualified health plans.

EHealth is the parent of eHealthInsurance, the biggest private health insurance exchange in the U.S. The company has enrolled more than 3 million people in coverage since it sold the first health insurance policy online in 1998. It also provides online and pharmacy-based tools to help seniors explore Medicare insurance options, choose a plan and enroll in select plans online through subsidiary PlanPrescriber.com and its Medicare website www.eHealthMedicare.com .

SHARE ACTION: The shares climbed $7.26, or 30.3 percent, to $31.20 in afternoon trading. Earlier in the session, the stock struck $31.34, its highest since January 2008. The shares are up 13 percent for the year to date.