This weekend, HealthCare.gov was updated to include a new feature that offers consumers detailed information about health insurance plans offered in their area before they apply for health insurance. The update comes just five days before open enrollment begins on November 15.
“Consumers can prepare for open enrollment by visiting HealthCare.gov and using the window shopping feature to see what plans will be available in their area,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement. “Using this tool, consumers can compare plans, covered benefits, and physician and hospital networks before the Marketplace annual open enrollment period starts on November 15. New features will give consumers a comprehensive picture of the plans in their area so they can choose the one that’s right for them.”
To use the feature, consumers will be asked to enter some personal information, such as their location and family size. From there, consumers can compare health insurance plans and get an estimate on how much financial assistance they qualify for.
According to CMS, the window shopping feature is the most popular section on HealthCare.gov -- the feature experiences three times more traffic than any other page on the Marketplace website.
Changes to the HealthCare.gov website were made in response to the difficulties consumers faced signing up for health insurance last year. CMS aims to make this year's sign up process simpler. Although last year consumers had to answer nine questions before viewing their plan options, CMS said that this year consumers will be able to start looking at plans after entering their zip code. Additionally, the window shopping tool was optimized for smart phone and tablet use.
Following the HealthCare.gov launch last year, some groups announced their own tools to encourage people to sign up for healthcare, in response to the website's issues.
In March, The New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange (NMHIX) partnered with Voxiva to launch a text message-based campaign in the hopes of encouraging New Mexicans to enroll in the exchange before the March 31, 2014 health insurance exchange deadline.
Another group, called the Young Invincibles, has been pushing for a mobile-enabled health insurance exchange for a few years. Their suggestions included designing a smartphone enrollment application, offering mobile integration for status updates, and developing mobile outreach campaigns.