The government on Friday added price information to its new website, www.HealthCare.gov, that allows consumers to shop more readily for health insurance on the Internet.
The information isn’t precise: The premium costs quoted are estimates only. But it’s valuable nonetheless, highlighting variations between different insurance policies and their potential pocketbook impact.
As with many of the government’s healthcare sites, it takes a bit of effort to access the information. First, you’ll be asked what state you live in, your age, whether you’re buying individual or family coverage, and some general details about your health status such as whether you’re pregnant. (My answers: middle-aged, with a pre-existing medical condition, purchasing a policy for myself only.)
Based on the answers, a list of healthcare options comes up, giving useful information about public and private insurance options and programs.
After requesting data about individual insurance and listing a ZIP code in a Chicago suburb, I was sent to a section describing the policies available – all 180 of them. I narrowed the search, saying I wanted to see only those with a maximum out-of-pocket limit between $1,000 and $2,500. That brought the field down to 57.
At the top of the list was a policy from UnitedHealthcare with premiums starting at $593 a month. Just underneath was a policy from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois with premiums starting at $773 a month. A few entries below was another policy from Blue Cross and Blue Shield with costs starting at $401 a month. Extensive plan details are available with the click of a button.
There’s no getting around it. At my age, health insurance is expensive. Seeing just how expensive is an eye-opener.
For people who want to know what their insurance options are, www.HealthCare.gov is a gold mine of information. But still, policies listed all have different structures and features, making comparisons challenging even for motivated consumers. And there are no guarantees: Insurance companies remain free to reject adults with pre-existing medical conditions until 2014, when another wave of reforms goes into effect.
— Judith Graham / Chicago Tribune