Healthcare.gov is up and running – and that should be good news for the many US citizens who are trying to understand the brave new world of US health care following this year’s passage of sweeping reform legislation.
The website is mandated by the new law, as is its July 1 start date. It is intended to be both a one-stop-shopping site for individuals looking to see what their insurance options are, and a central repository for news and information about the health bill’s rollout.
“Healthcare.gov will take some of the mystery out of shopping for health insurance,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on the White House blog Thursday morning.
People looking for insurance can visit healthcare.gov, answer a few questions about their age, health status, and family size, and then look at a list of private plans in their state that are accepting new enrollees. The site contains information on Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program plans, and state plans that cover people with preexisting conditions as well.
The site can handle over a billion different search scenarios, according to Secretary Sebelius. Say you are the head of household of a family in Maryland who lost insurance when your job changed. Enter that info, and healthcare.gov comes up with a list of at least eight plans you might be able to enroll in, from Aetna to Time Insurance Co.
Click through to find more information, though, and you may find it lacking. Price information is not yet posted. The website says that such data are coming in October, when a more detailed version of the website is supposed to debut. Large insurance companies have complained about providing the government with such detailed price information, however, so stay tuned.
You can’t enroll in insurance plans directly from the site. Instead, it provides phone numbers and other contact information so you can reach insurers directly.
Another section of the website lists news about the implementation of the new health reform law, including a time line of when various provisions take effect. The site also links to “Hospital Compare,” another HHS Web service, where consumers can check various quality indicators on their local hospitals.