The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has unveiled a new series of tools to help Americans find affordable coverage options through HealthCare.gov, a web portal first unveiled on July 1st. Starting today, applicants will be able to compare plan benefits, prices, and application denial rates. Currently the site includes information for 4,400 family and individual policies, a list that will grow more insurers submit plans in the coming months.
Here are some of the new features:
- Provides price estimates.
- Expands benefit detail for private insurance plans.
- Offers metrics on the percent of applications denied and percentage of applicants that were charged more than the advertised rate.
- More information about Medicaid and CHIP programs.
Watch Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at HHS, demonstrate the new features:
Responding to a question from Politico’s Sarah Kliff about insurer criticism of the accuracy of the denial rate — which the industry warns may be inflated — Karen Pollitz, Deputy Director of the Office of Consumer Support, said that the data came directly from the industry. “We asked insurers to report to us on actual denials. So an application is submitted and the insurer does not issue the coverage or refuses to issue the coverage,” Pollitz said, explaining that insurers deny coverage for a number of reasons ranging from an applicant’s pre-existing condition to an illegitimate application from another state. Issuers also informally deny coverage by simply sizing up the applicant without embarking on a formal application process. “I think what we have is a pretty good measure, it’s not perfect, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect in the marketplace today.”
“And in 2014, we’ll be able to take that down from the website because insurers won’t be able to do that anymore,” she concluded.
In 2011, the website will include pricing and comparison information for small businesses. It will also hopefully serve as a guide to states that are looking establish their own exchanges and develop similar web portals.