For all that the Obama Administration has done to promote the new Affordable Care Act – the press releases, the town halls, the cable news hits – none did much to move the needle of public opinion. Despite a few polls showing a small uptick in support for the new law, on the whole, the public has remained divided over how it will impact them and their families with about half liking the law and half hating it.
Today comes something that could change that: the launch of healthcare.gov, a government web site where consumers can see what insurance plans—public and private—are available to them based on their personal situation (health, age, job status, etc.) and location. This seems like a fairly straightforward set of information and it is, but yet this is the first time it’s aggregated, organized and clearly presented in one place. The site, which boasts some 500 pages of content, contains information about private insurance for individuals and small businesses, Medicaid programs in every state and high-risk pools. There are sub-sections of the web site with information geared to specific populations – young adults, employers, families with children, etc. The site is amazingly easily to navigate and isn’t overcrowded with information. Enter your zip code, insurance status, basic health status, family makeup and a few other details and up pops the insurance plans available to you. Pretty cool, huh?
(click to enlarge)
If this sounds like an ad for the web site, it is. Consumers should go there. Part of the reason the U.S. health insurance system is dysfunctional is that consumers aren’t empowered and there’s not enough transparency. Many people don’t know what their insurance choices are or what laws and regulations affect them. Now they can get this information easily and quickly.
Some critics of the health care law and the Obama Administration will no doubt scoff at healthcare.gov, but they shouldn’t. There’s nothing wrong with helping Americans find out more about what their insurance options. This means more accountability and a more competitive marketplace.
Still missing from the site right now is pricing information for plans. These will come along in a few months. The web site also doesn’t allow consumers to purchase health insurance – to do that, they have to contact insurers directly. Once exchanges are set up by 2014, web site like this – but with prices, quality ratings and a “buy now” button – will allow for much more functionality. But healthcare.gov is a good start and a politically savvy one too.
A longer review from Tech president here, and see a Youtube demo below.