Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Visit the health care website and this is what you'll find

If you visited the federal health care website, healthcare.gov, in October, you know what a disaster it was. I tried accessing it on October 1 and gave up after staring at a frozen screen for 15 minutes.

Visit the health care website and this is what you’ll find

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If you visited the federal health care website, healthcare.gov, in October, you know what a disaster it was. I tried accessing it on October 1 and gave up after staring at a frozen screen for 15 minutes.

The site’s problems went even deeper than the technical glitches. They included basic design flaws. Most notably, the site provided no information about insurance plans or how to sign up for them unless a visitor created an account. This discouraged window shoppers and those seeking general background – people who were often most in need of the site’s assistance.

President Obama promised that the website would work by November 30, but many remained skeptical that a debacle of that magnitude could be fixed so soon. However, the computer geeks must have accomplished something, because more than a million people succeeded in signing up for coverage by the end of December. More than 880,000 visited it on Christmas Eve alone. And almost a million more signed up on the sites run separately by 14 states.

The reports of successful signups and heavy traffic piqued my curiosity, so I decided it was time to visit again, even though I don’t need to use it to apply for coverage. If you are interested in the state of Obamacare, I suggest you do the same. It offers an entirely different experience than it did in October. It actually works.

The website is filled with information that is easily accessible without an account. More than 20 pages on the site offer content ranging from the mechanics of the insurance marketplace to the nature of coverage for preventive services. Several of the pages include videos and links to other resources. There is also a calculator to determine whether your income qualifies you for a subsidy to help cover a plan’s cost.

More importantly, the site generates a list of coverage options based on your age, state, and county of residence. The list includes key plan details, like monthly premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket spending limits and links to the insurance company’s website for a directory of participating providers.

Even if you don’t apply for a policy, this is valuable information for understanding your options and assessing your current coverage.

That’s the good news. The downside is the high deductibles for most of the plans that the site listed for me and the relatively large premiums for some of them. It would take some time to calculate which is the best deal. However, for many people, the result will be quite favorable with deals that are much better than those they can currently get.

The website glitches and high deductibles are important, but they should not obscure the most important aspect of the health reform law. That is a benefit that everyone receives, whether they realize it or not. The law guarantees every American the ability to obtain health insurance regardless of their health status. You may not need that guarantee today, but it is there if you ever do. And it will be a lifesaver for millions.

About this blog

The Field Clinic reports and analyzes health care laws, government policies, and political trends that are transforming the care we receive and the way we pay for it. Read more about our panel of bloggers here.

This blog is produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health-policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. Portions of this blog may also be found on Inquirer.com and in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

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Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H. Professor, School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health
Jeffrey Brenner, MD Founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Medical Director of the Urban Health Institute at Cooper University Healthcare
Andy Carter President & CEO, The Hospital & Healthsystem Assoc. of Pa.
Robert B. Doherty Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs & Public Policy American College of Physicians
David Grande, MD, MPA Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Tine Hansen-Turton Chief Strategy Officer of Public Health Management Corporation
Drew A. Harris, DPM, MPH Director of Health Policy Program at the Jefferson School of Population Health
Antoinette Kraus Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network
Laval Miller-Wilson Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project
David B. Nash, MD, MBA Founding Dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health
Mark V. Pauly, Ph.D. Professor of Health Care Management, Business Economics and Public Policy at The Wharton School
Howard J. Peterson, MHA Managing Partner of TRG Healthcare, a national healthcare consulting firm
Paula L. Stillman, MD, MBA Healthcare consultant with special expertise in population health and disease management
Elizabeth A. W. Williams Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer for Independence Blue Cross
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