Patient Tools
News Adds Transparency To Insurance Market

Data on the percentage of applicants denied or charged higher premiums, as well as the base cost and provisions of plans, is available on the federal government website.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday that it has added price estimates for private health insurance policies to the website, which will allow consumers to easily compare prices and the extent of coverage being offered under these plans.

According to department officials, the updated version of the website gives customers new information and tools that will make the health insurance market more transparent, increase competition, and help lower costs for individuals.

The information can be found in the Insurance Finder section of the website and includes information from over 4,000 private health plans offered by over 200 insurers, across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

To help consumers make more informed choices, the site includes new information including two notable metrics never before made public: the percentage of each provider's applicants who were either denied coverage or charged higher premiums because of their health status.

In a message posted on the site, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the Insurance Finder is designed to make it easy for Americans to see many of the things they'll need to know to make a decision about their insurance coverage.

"In addition to giving you the base price for these insurance plans, we have new details like the percentage of people who are quoted a rate higher than the basic premium based on the individual's health status. And you can see what percentage of people were turned down when they tried to buy that plan," Sebelius said. "This will give you some sense of how different insurance companies change pricing and accept or deny coverage for individuals in less-than-perfect circumstances. Until today, that kind of information had never been available to consumers, and this new transparency is the result of regulations issued under the Affordable Care Act.", created under the Affordable Care Act, launched July 1, 2010, and is the first website of its kind to bring information and links to health insurance plans into one place to make it easy for consumers to learn about and compare their insurance choices. The HHS Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (OCIIO) worked to define and collect detailed benefits and premium rating information from insurers across the country.

As of October 1, consumers can now find information about health insurance options such as: monthly premium estimates; cost-sharing information, including annual deductibles and out-of-pocket limits; major categories of services covered; consumers' share of cost for these services; percent of people in the plan who pay more than the base premium estimate due to their health status; and percent of people denied coverage from a health plan.

At a press conference in Washington D.C. on Friday, Todd Park, HHS chief technology officer, said the expectation is that the information will spur more competition in the health insurance marketplace which will in turn drive better value and lower costs for consumers over time. Park also said that next year the website will add similar pricing and comparison functionality for small businesses.

"In terms of where we are going next, we're very happy to also say that in 2011 we'll be extending the same kind of new pricing and comparison functionality for small businesses. We're excited to be working with the small business community and with insurers and other stakeholders to make sure that what we put together there is user friendly, clear, meaningful, and helpful to small business," Park said.