Health care and tech savvy bloggers breathed a collective sigh of relief last Thursday, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled a very user friendly and easy to navigate health care portal at healthcare.gov. I captured Todd Park’s very energetic presentation of the site here, and wondered how the national portal would interact with the state-based exchanges in 2014.
Will states build off the main site and sell policies from some kind of exchange section? Or, will they have to create their own websites and sell coverage that way? Will customers be able to view exchanges options from the main site or will that information only be available within each exchange? I sent these questions to a contact at HHS and received the following reply:
Under Section 1311(b)(5), the portal continues to operate. States have the option of using the portal directly or using a template the Secretary provides to set up their own portal but the portal continues to function robustly concurrently with any portal a state may set up. It is important to note that the portal is currently organized and displays information by state. In 2014, it will reflect the plan offerings in the Exchanges as well as public programs. The portal will also show plans sold outside the exchange.
During today’s Twitter chat, Park confirmed this arrangement, tweeting that “State-level portals can be a great complement to HealthCare.gov. We’ll continue to enhance HealthCare.gov as well.” All this should be seen as a good thing, since the existing site goes a long way towards accomplishing the main goal of exchanges — helping customers choose a compatible insurance plan.
In other words, in 2014, a purchaser a customer will be able to generate rate comparisons by inputting his or her date of birth, household size, and ZIP code. Many more details need to be worked out, but if states don’t have to create their own portals and can rely on the national model, it will be possible for consumers to compare products in a standardized way. That could only help increase the number of insured Americans.