HHS launches Web portal to help consumers buy health insurance

On July 1, 2010 Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled the
government's new website aimed at helping uninsured consumers find and buy insurance. The
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required HHS to set up
HealthCare.gov. Sebelius called
the site a "one-stop, easy-to-use resource where American consumers can see all their health
care options in one place." The site also includes information about the health system reform law.

Info about public programs, private insurance plans

HealthCare.gov is the first central database of health coverage options, and includes information
about public programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Plan, and
high-risk pool coverage provided through the new Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan. In
addition, it includes information from more than 1,000 private insurance plans. Consumers can see
a list of all private health plans that are accepting new customers by state and zip code.

Coverage options for small businesses

The site also provides coverage options for small businesses, including information about the tax
credits available in the health system reform law. While consumers cannot enroll directly through
the federal site, they are provided with health plans' Web links and phone numbers. The website
also links to a summary of health plans' benefits and the provider networks, as well as the drug
coverage offered by the plans.

A list of local individual health coverage plans

The website walks individuals through a checklist where they are asked to indicate their state, age
range, and whether they are disabled, healthy, or have a medical condition. They are also asked
whether they have any health insurance coverage. The site then provides options to learn about
private health plans, public options, COBRA coverage, and the new high-risk insurance pools for
people who have not been able to obtain coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions. Once
they enter their zip code, a list of plans in their area is provided.

Benefit information, price estimates and performance data

Beginning in October 2010, the website will expand to include benefit information and price
estimates, including premiums, deductibles, and coverage limitations. The site eventually will
provide additional information such as performance data on plans, including the percentage of
claims rejected, medical loss ratios, and how often patients appeal coverage decisions, as well as
information on preventing disease and illness and improving health care quality. The website will
serve as an information bridge until 2014 when the state health insurance exchanges are
operational; at that point, most of the website's functions will be taken over by individual state
exchange websites.

For more information visit