HHS touts its new consumer healthcare site as best ever

By Bernie Monegain
09:49 AM

The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a new Web site Thursday that officials say will help consumers take control of their healthcare, connecting them to information and resources that will help them access quality, affordable coverage.

Called for by the Affordable Care Act, HHS bills HealthCare.gov as the first Web site to provide consumers with both public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs with a single, easy-to-use tool.

"HealthCare.gov helps consumers take control of their healthcare and make the choices that are right for them, by putting the power of information at their fingertips," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  "For too long, the insurance market has been confusing and hard to navigate. HealthCare.gov makes it easy for consumers and small businesses to compare health insurance plans in both the public and the private sector and find other important health care information."
Sebelius said HealthCare.gov is the first central database of health coverage options, combining information about public programs, from Medicare to the new Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan, with information from more than 1,000 private insurance plans.  Consumers can receive information about options specific to their life situation and local community.
In addition, the Web site will be a one-stop-shop for information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and it will connect consumers to quality rankings for local healthcare providers as well as preventive services.
"This Web site is unlike any government Web site you have ever seen or used before," said HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park. "It was developed with significant consumer input and is remarkably easy to navigate. This is despite the sheer volume of content it offers consumers: billions of healthcare choices through the insurance finder and more than 500 pages of new content, all of which is designed to grow with ongoing consumer feedback and as our health care system improves."
As the healthcare market transforms, so will HealthCare.gov. In October, 2010, price estimates for health insurance plans will be available online. In the weeks and months ahead, new information on preventing disease and illness and improving the quality of health care for all Americans will also be posted. The Web site also includes a series of opportunities for users to indicate whether pages were helpful to them, and HHS says it will continue to seek user feedback to grow and strengthen the site.
"People need to see what choices are offered, what options cost, and how coverage works in practice," said Karen Pollitz, deputy director for consumer support, Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. "Today HealthCare.gov takes an important first step in that direction. In the coming months and years, we will add pricing and plan performance information so that consumers can see and understand and make meaningful choices about their health coverage."