ObamaCare portal launches estimate tool

The estimate tool is an alternative to the traditional enrollment system, which is still active and undergoing improvements after its rocky debut last week.

One important difference is that the new online tool does not calculate users' eligibility for federal discounts, meaning that the premium prices quoted might be higher than enrollees would ultimately pay.

The tool produces what are essentially ballpark price estimates since real costs would be calculated based on an enrollee's specific age, not their age category.

The Obama administration is seeking ways to keep momentum for enrollment despite the problems that have plagued the main online portal. Creating an account was a particularly difficult step given technical issues with the site.

“We listened to your requests and now have high-level information about plans and rates in your community offered through HealthCare.gov,” the system's Facebook page posted Thursday.