During the first open enrollment period, Healthcare.gov and state exchanges were a bit wonky, to say the least. Laden with back-end issues and technical glitches, the websites lacked proper price-comparison tools for consumers, among other issues.
During the second enrollment period, things have gone more smoothly. The websites implemented features that help consumers make more informed decisions. However, the sites could increase their transparency even more to ensure consumers have access to data that allows them to compare plans, according to a recent report from the National Partnership for Women & Families.
The report found that nearly all marketplace websites include a "window-shopping" feature that lets consumers see plan options through an anonymous browsing function. Before this feature was installed across the sites, consumers were unable to determine costs such as deductibles.
While this feature has, in fact, enhanced the browsing experience, the report recommended that all marketplace sites offer the most comprehensive anonymous browsing feature possible. Additionally, marketplace sites should let consumers input their personal information while window-shopping--an option currently available only on Healthcare.gov. This will let consumers personalize plans to reflect their financial and eligibility statuses.
Four state-run marketplaces--Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland and Washington--let consumers find plans based on providers in-network that cover their prescription drugs, as noted in the report. The sites offer detailed provider directories as part of their anonymous window-shopping feature. Colorado also implemented a drug directory that enables consumers to see which plans cover their medications.
While these four states are making leaps and bounds to enhance their consumers' shopping experiences, barriers still remain. The report mentioned that marketplace sites should inform consumers which directories and formularies correspond to which health plans. All marketplaces should include a tool similar to Coloardo's that better integrates provider and prescription drug directories. This will let consumers compare plans based on what provides the most value to them.
- here's the report (.pdf)