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Monday, October 4, 2010

Comparing prices for your health coverage

Kate Blocher

Staff Writer

Have you ever tried to compare prices and plans of different health insurance carriers in the private market? It’s downright impossible. There are so many variables: What benefits does this plan cover? What are the out-of-pocket costs? Is my age a factor? Not to mention the sheer number of plans there are to choose from—it makes my head spin just thinking about it!

Not anymore.

Now, all that information can be found in one convenient location: HealthCare.gov. As of October 1st,  you can explore the coverage options for your state and more on HealthCare.gov:

  • You can compare premium prices for healthy people based on several factors including age, gender, family size, and tobacco use;
  • Each plan includes the percentage of applicants who are denied coverage and the percentage that are rated up based on their health status and therefore charged a higher premium;
  • You can compare plan deductibles and out-of-pocket costs;
  • You can compare the maximum out-of-pocket costs you could face for covered benefits under each plan.
  • You can sort plans based on any of these cost categories;
  • And there is information about whether plans cover various categories of benefits, cost-sharing for those benefits, and whether the plan excludes certain services (i.e. maternity benefits).

In order to be included in the list of health insurance plans, insurance carriers had to submit information regarding their plans ahead of time to allow the Department of Health and Human Services time to certify that the information was accurate. A large number of plans were submitted and many more are expected to submit their information for a second round of updates in November.

In addition to the information on the private market, there is new waiver information for Medicaid and cost-sharing information for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

When you explore the website, if you think of ways it can be improved, you’ll see places to leave your feedback – so please comment!

The private insurance market can be a difficult and intimidating place to try and navigate on your own. By giving consumers a one-stop shop to view and compare their coverage options, HeathCare.gov and the new health care law have made it considerably easier for all of us to get health care coverage.