The Department of Heath and Human Services unveiled its long awaited web portal this morning, healthcare.gov. The snazzy website allows consumers to comparison shop between different coverage options, including private insurance plans, high risk pools, CHIP and Medicaid. “For the first time ever in the history of this country, American consumers can see all their health care options in one place,” Kathleen Sebelius said a press conference this afternoon. The site has information on over 1,000 private insurance carriers from the private market place and supports over 3 billion potential personal scenarios.
And as Chief Technology Officer Todd Park demonstrates, it’s also very friendly:
By October 2010 the site will offer price estimates of different plans, medical-loss ratio information (percentage of your premium spent on administrative costs) and new details about prevention and care quality. “It’s a site we hope to co-author with the American people,” Todd Park said, stressing that the site “didn’t fee like a government website.” And while it certainly doesn’t look like a government site, the fact that it is, I think, is significant. Given the common perception of government inefficiency and waste, it’s telling that HHS was able to design such a user friendly and aesthetically pleasing website — in just 90 days. It speaks well of the department’s implementation strategy and sets up a fairly high bar and sound precedent for moving forward with reform.
What’s unclear is how the site will interact with the new exchanges once they become operational in 2014. Asked if by New York Times’ Robert Pear if individuals will be able to submit applications for insurance directly though the website, Sebelius stressed that the site would remain purely informational. “No, I don’t think we ever anticipate or want to be the insurance broker for the country,” she said. “This is really a consumer tool and a transparency tool to help people do some comparative shopping and information.” “What we want to do is give a non marketing tool to let people access the market a little more easily.”
State and regional exchanges will presumably have to establish their own websites, whether or not they’ll use healthcare.gov as a model and how the site will present the exchange options, is unknown.