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Healthcare.gov to include many new features for 2016 sign-ups

Health Care Reform and Policy
by Heather Robinson
Health insurers say exchange participation too costly for them
Health insurers say exchange participation too costly for them

Over the past few years, the federal government's website through which millions of Americans are expected to buy or renew their health insurance has come under major fire for a number of reasons. However, it now seems that many of the early kinks have been ironed out, to the point that the government is ready to roll out a slew of new features that could help consumers find the best health insurance options for their ongoing needs.

All the new features are essentially designed to help consumers make better choices where their health care needs are concerned, especially as it relates to cost, according to a report from the Associated Press. However, it should be noted that the government is no longer all that bullish on rapidly increasing the number of previously uninsured Americans who will now sign up through Healthcare.gov, for any number of reasons. In all, some 10.5 million people are eligible for the exchanges but have yet to get involved with them, and are perhaps not all that likely to do so.

What's new?
Perhaps the most significant introduction here is the concept of "window shopping," which allows consumers to get a close look at the various details of a number of health insurance plans in one fell swoop, the report said. This should make shopping for the right coverage a lot easier going forward, as it used to require some serious work to get the details of even one plan pulled up on a screen, let alone several that could then be compared and contrasted to find the best deal possible.

In addition, though, the federal government seems to be couching these innovations a bit, as they recommend that consumers call doctors or insurers to make sure the deals found on the site are as they should be, the report said. Sometimes, the data on Healthcare.gov might not be entirely accurate or updated, meaning that certain medications may not be covered even if the site listed them.

But beyond that, this should give consumers a fairly good idea of the total costs they're going to face over the course of the year when it comes to everything from premiums to co-pays and deductibles, the report said. That will likely give Americans the best idea possible about their out-of-pocket expenses for their own health care needs.

Open enrollment, with new consumer-friendly features, begins in November.Open enrollment, with new consumer-friendly features, begins in November.

What about enrollment?
Meanwhile, Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, noted that the 10.5 million who haven't enrolled are seen as tough to sign up simply because if they were interested, they almost certainly would have done so in the last two years, the report said. Most of them are likely to be young people who don't have much spending money or see little need for such coverage given their current health status.

The more health insurers can do to make sure their clients who signed up via Healthcare.gov know what they're getting into, the better off all involved are likely to be. This is because educated consumers are the most likely to make the best possible decisions regarding their coverage.



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