upgrade aims to make it easier to compare health insurance plans by price

By Annette M. Boyle

An upgrade to the government's health insurance website should streamline consumer searches for information on doctors, medications and plan costs, according to the Associated Press.

Expanding the use of such tools may be particularly helpful for exchange customers, who are more likely than those insured through private employers or Medicare and Medicaid to be concerned with cost and value. It's a win for plans that compete on price, as well. 

A Sept. 29 slide presentation shared with the AP outlines improvements to the website's window-shopping feature that will allow consumers to enter their doctors, hospitals and medications and then compare their coverage and access with different insurance plans.

The update will also enable consumers to estimate their total costs, including premiums, office visit co-pays and deductibles, said the AP.

A recent study showed that just three state-based marketplaces allow consumers to estimate their total out-of-pocket costs.

"By including more of these tools in both real and 'window' shopping stages, marketplaces can help de-mystify what for many is a complex, opaque process," lead researcher Charlene A. Wong, M.D., a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation clinical scholar, said in an announcement of those findings.

Testing on the federal exchange site began last week and will continue through the start of open enrollment on Nov. 1. The government is providing technical assistance for insurers to work out any issues, notes the article. The new functionality should be available on mobile devices as well.

To learn more:
- read the article

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