HHS publishes insurance prices, Consumer Reports explains reform

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The first big wave of health care reform implementation has brought with it a mini-boom in consumer-oriented explainer sites and publications. You may remember the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Reform Source from our implementation coverage. In the days since, it’s been joined by offerings from Consumer Reports and the federal government, among others.

govSince its launch this summer, Healthcare.gov has slowly evolved, adding explainers, tools and a Spanish-language version. Now, it has officially entered the meat-and-potatoes, utility-belt phase with an insurance search tool that includes detailed pricing and coverage information (press release). According to USA Today‘s Alison Young, the tool indexes 4,400 plans from 225 insurers, and will be updated monthly.

And while it caters to consumers with things like monthly premiums, out-of-pocket costs and deductibles, the tool also includes some great data points for reporters, including covered services, percent of applications denied in the past three months, and percent of applicants charged more than the base price. One caveat: All the information is hidden behind a little search wizard, and you’ll have to enter demographic information and click a few tabs before you get to the good stuff.

And finally, as an antidote to the sometimes bureaucratic HHS site, the Consumers Union guide to the first six months of health care reform (Six-page PDF) is heavy on bullet points and easy-to-understand, categorical statements like “Sick children can’t be denied coverage” and “Preventive health care and screenings covered.”

Each major topic area is broken down into four key elements: “What’s New?”; “You may benefit if you”; “What you get”; and “The fine print.” The last subheading is where the guide really shines, as it briefly details exactly how an insurer can slip out of that particular provision.

1 thought on “HHS publishes insurance prices, Consumer Reports explains reform

  1. Nancy Metcalf

    The HHS people in charge of Healthcare.gov told me that once they can catch their breath, they plan to put all the insurance company information into a downloadable data file. Then journalists can really go to town on it.

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