Enrollment for health insurance at Healthcare.gov will be "night and day from last year," the site's new CEO, Kevin Counihan, said in an interview with Bloomberg News. Open enrollment for 2015 coverage starts Nov. 15.
That's not to say shopping there will be a perfect experience.
Consumers will be able to "window shop" for plans about a week before enrollment opens and new customers will experience a shorter, simpler registration process. However, comparison shopping for doctors, hospitals and drugs covered by different plans still won't be easy on the federal site.
Customers must still contact insurance companies directly to figure out exactly what their plans cover, and would be advised to do so, notes The Daily Caller, because the federal site offers health insurance with much more narrow networks than typical private health insurance. However, making those inquiries can make enrollment significantly slower.
"It's a real priority for us to create raving fans," Counihan told Bloomberg. "We want our service experience to be highly satisfying. We think the best way we can attract new enrollment is by satisfying the customers we already have."
The Obama administration launched a "tech surge" to fix the myriad technical problems with the site after the botched rollout last October.
Though Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell declined to assure reporters last week that development of the site is on schedule, Counihan said about 25 major insurers have been testing the site's performance and have been pleased. Testing begins Oct. 7 with all insurers. A dearth of testing was cited as a major flaw leading to the disastrous launch of the site last year.
Exchanges, which are shifting power to consumers, create opportunities for payers who embrace them, Debbie Gordon, vice president and chief marketing officer at Network Health in Massachusetts, wrote in a guest commentary for FierceHealthPayer.
"Exchanges may be the previously missing element that catalyzes the rise of consumer power, providing greater competition, transparency and consumer responsibility--and for the first time, a real mechanism to enable a true shopping experience for health insurance," she says.