When you make a large purchase, such as a car, you'd probably like to know that you're getting the best deal for your money. There are plenty of Web sites that can help you in this quest, and you can compare and contrast different makes, models, features and price points until you find the perfect car for your situation.
On July 1, 2010, the U.S. government unveiled HealthCare.gov. This new Web site is designed to offer the same sort of information and transparency about the health insurance market so that consumers can be sure they're getting the best value. The creation of the Web site was a requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed into law in March 2010, and the site is designed to provide comprehensive, easy-to-understand information on health insurance options.
HealthCare.gov presents extensive information on how the new health care reform legislation affects consumers, but it's served up in a very personalized way. Whether you're a pregnant woman in Ohio or a recent college graduate in Nevada, you can get information about how the law impacts your particular situation. For example, small business owners could visit a page that explains how the insurance marketplace is changing for them in the near future, as well as in 2014, when the final pieces of the legislation will be put into place.
The Web site also includes information on preventive care and how to compare the quality of care patients receive at local facilities, but its most notable feature is the insurance finder. For the first time ever, private plans and public plans have been cataloged together so that consumers can comparison-shop. This tool is designed to give consumers control in an area that has been so baffling for so many years. Rather than flipping through hundreds of pages of fine print or spending hours on the phone, consumers can now easily see the plans that are available to someone in their situation. On the next page, we'll take a closer look at how this feature works.
Finding Insurance Options on HealthCare.gov
If you're in the market for health insurance, HealthCare.gov can help you find specific options quickly and easily. All you have to do is answer a few simple questions, such as your state of residence, employment status, the number of people who need coverage and any relevant health issues. If you're wary of providing the government with your information, know that the system is unable to retain any of the data you provide.
Based on this information, the insurance finder pulls up options that may be relevant to your situation. For example, a father of two who just lost his job would receive 10 options, including one about COBRA coverage, enrolling in a spouse's plan, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
If this man decided that he wanted to purchase a new plan, he could enter his ZIP code to pull up specific companies offering insurance in that area. HealthCare.gov currently has information from more than 1,000 insurance carriers and more than 5,000 individual plans and products. The consumer can view each of the plans that a company offers, from the benefits to the doctors who are covered by the plan. The links to that information are provided by the insurance companies themselves, which means they have an incentive to provide easy-to-understand information and affordable care. After all, if you're comparing a company that has a confusing benefit system and a byzantine Web site to a company that makes things very easy to understand, you're more likely to go with the latter option.
In October 2010, HealthCare.gov will include pricing information for these plans, though it should be noted that those numbers will be only estimates. An individual would still have to go through the underwriting process at the insurance company and may be subject to a different fee. Still, the administration is hopeful that the basic estimates will give people a better idea of how much certain plans cost so that you won't have to waste time pursuing one that's completely out of your league. Though HealthCare.gov will provide pricing information, consumers can't buy insurance through the site. For that, they'll have to go directly to the insurer (HealthCare.gov lists contact information).
HealthCare.gov will continue to evolve until 2014. At that point, the site will also function as a portal to all state-administered insurance exchanges, which are required by the new legislation. In the short term, however, there are yellow feedback boxes located all over HealthCare.gov; the government is requesting user feedback on each page so that the site can continually be improved for consumers.
If you'd like to learn about other features of the health care reform legislation, see the links on the next page.
- HealthCare.gov Web site. (July 1, 2010)http://www.healthcare.gov/
- Lawrence, Jill. "Healthcare.gov: The Government is Here to Help. Really." Politics Daily. July 1, 2010. (July 1, 2010)http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/07/01/healthcare-gov-the-government-is-here-to-help-really/
- Newmark, Craig. "healthcare.gov -- real info on new healthcare options." San Francisco Gate. June 30, 2010. (July 1, 2010)http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/newmark/detail??blogid=67&entry_id=66984
- Pickert, Kate. "The Launch of Healthcare.gov." Time. July 1, 2010. (July 1, 2010)http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/07/01/healthcare-gov-launches/
- Sebelius, Kathleen. "Announcing HealthCare.gov." July 1, 2010. (July 1, 2010)http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/07/01/announcing-healthcaregov
- Scola, Nancy. "Obama's New HealthCare.gov: A Look at What's Inside." Tech President. July 1, 2010. (July 1, 2010)http://techpresident.com/blog-entry/obamas-new-healthcaregov-look-whats-inside