Families and individuals in need of health care, previously lost in a bewildering process of researching and comparing their options, now have a new online tool provided by the federal government to make the process easier. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently launched HealthCare.gov, the first consumer website that provides consumers with information to find quality affordable health care coverage.
As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) signed into law by the president in March, HealthCare.gov, is the first central database of both public and private health care options, including Medicare and the new Pre-existing Conditions Insurance Plan. The website provides an introduction to the ACA, the law created to lower health care costs and provide more health care options.
A detailed timeline shows the dates new benefits, changes, and reforms go into effect.
“HealthCare.gov helps consumers take control of their health care and make the choices that are right for them, by putting the power of information at their fingertips. For too long, the insurance market has been confusing and hard to navigate,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press release.
To find insurance options on the website, consumers are walked through an easy to navigate short series of questions, which include state of residence, age, and current health care status. After the user completes the questions, he is given the ability to learn more about specific options.
New services available because of the ACA include the Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan. The plan is now providing health insurance to Americans previously uninsured because of a pre-existing condition. It gives expanded coverage for early retirees and relief for seniors who hit the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole.”
Doughnut hole means the prescription drug coverage limit has been reached and the beneficiary must pay the full cost of his or her prescription drugs up until the total out-of-pocket expenses reaches a certain amount.
“People need to see what choices are offered, what options cost, and how coverage works in practice. Today HealthCare.gov takes an important first step in that direction,” said Karen Pollitz, deputy director for Consumer Support, Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight in an HHS press release.
HealthCare.gov also links consumers to the HHS Hospital Compare website, which lists U.S. hospitals, demographics, and 44 quality measures. It allows users to compare the quality of care that hospitals provide. The information comes from hospitals that have agreed to submit quality and patient safety information.