Feds push payers to offer 'simple' ACA plans

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Aiming to make it easier for consumers to choose health insurance plans, the federal government, which runs ACA exchange marketplaces in roughly two-thirds of states, is encouraging insurers to offer “simple choice plans” as an option this fall.

Insurers are not required to offer standardized plans on the federal marketplace, just as they are not required to participate in state exchanges. And the standardized plans make it harder for insurers to create plans which are less attractive to consumers with costly conditions, Sabrina Corlette of the Georgetown Center for Health Insurance Reform told KHN.

The goal is to make comparing plans easier for consumers, who have struggled making apples-to-apples comparisons in previous enrollment periods, according to a report from KHN. The effort arrives in the wake of the Obama administration’s proposals to make the exchanges a viable place for payers to do business.

“Simple choice” silver plans, the lowest cost plans set to be offered, have the same deductible, out-of-pocket limits and co-payments within each metal tier.

Still, featuring standardized “simple” plans next to non-standardized plans has potential to further confuse consumers--the opposite effect of what is intended by the plans. Healthcare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan has said the plans would “display prominently” coupled by “clear visual cues,” according to KHN.

Acing the consumer shopping experience is crucial for the success of offering standardized plans. “Otherwise you might as well not bother,” Corlette told KHN.