Healthcare.Gov - Privacy, Deception & Hazardous To Your Wallet!
We've all heard that problems with the Healthcare.gov website were being addressed and our leaders are just as angry as consumers are in dealing with this issue. We're patted on the head and told that we need to be patient and everything will be fixed.
The Fix Is In?
Several key changes have been implemented this week and we took a few minutes this morning to examine the "improvements". The website is clearly faster, transitions to each page are now much faster in the sections we explored. There have been additional steps made to try to guide the buyer in the process and handhold you as you click-through the options. More pages have been added to attempt to explain every possible question. I was particularly interested in prices of plans and so I made every effort to find prices for plans that I might buy for myself. The price search still seems difficult as they continually try to get you to go through the 30 minute process and fill in all of your information just to check out the cost of options!
Are You Thinking About Privacy?
Let me be clear about my approach. I don't want to use the healthcare.gov website as the conduit for my application for coverage, but in this case I wanted to explore its ability to provide pricing information on the whole market (just like you can get on our website with quotes emailed directly to you!). Ask yourself why the marketplace government site needs detailed information about you beyond dates of birth, zip code, and smoking status? Think about it! The ACA prohibits insurers from pricing plans based on gender, so why do they ask if you are male or female? Why do they ask 30 minutes of other questions? Effectively, this is an intrusive information grab, especially since you are going to apply for coverage directly with an insurer!
WHY in the world would anyone voluntarily buy directly from the healthcare.gov website? Ultimately, you are buying coverage from an insurance company, why would you ever involve the main government website in your purchase and go through the government hoops unless you were getting financial assistance?
What Are The Prices?
My exploration was simply to find prices for any insurance company plan in my area.
Let's examine what I found.
Below is a screen shot of the input screen where the healthcare.gov sites asks us what age band we are in. My concern is already heightened. Why aren't they asking for a specific age, what about a specific zip code and not just my county? Even the most basic health insurance quote template asks these questions.
There are a few disclaimers stating that prices could be "lower" and also one that says that final pricing can't be determined until you complete the marketplace application, but no reference to the fact that we might be getting an estimate rather than a real quote for coverage.
Next, we receive the output which highlights several key details. In this example, we find that the following plans are available:
Specifically we see the following plans and prices;
Blue Cross Advantage Bronze HMO 006 - $137.53
Blue Cross Advantage Bronze HMO 005 - $137.56
Humana Connect Bronze $6300 Plan - $179.90
These look great! While I'm not a big fan of the HMO type product (since there are little or no out of network benefits AND zero out-of-state benefits in many cases) the prices are cheap and on the government site, this is all you can get, pricing information. Want details on the plan like what it covers? No, sorry, you can't get that!
After pulling these prices I feel pretty excited so I wanted to go to our website at www.texashealthdesign.com and see if we could find prices for these plans. You can actually run quotes directly with each carrier very easily and like we mentioned, you are going to have to deal with the insurance provider anyway, why not take that step to get prices AND details on the plan right away? Our site pulls directly from the carriers; Blue Cross, Cigna, and Humana. We'll have Aetna up soon as well now that we are seeing they are actually providing plan pricing too.
Below is a screenshot of my quotes for available plans. Let's dig in to the results.
Blue Cross Advantage Bronze HMO 006 - $173.88
Blue Cross Advantage Bronze HMO 005 - $173.92
Humana Connect Bronze $6300 Plan - $228.36
The truth seems to be a bit different from what we are seeing in the healthcare.gov website. The government website seems to be misrepresenting quotes and pricing them 26% lower than they are in reality!
I'll finish just to plainly state that the government website it simply a farce. First, the pricing "estimates" are complete garbage. A 26% pricing misquote doesn't help anyone and in fact leads all of us to have expectations that are not reality. Second, the government website tries to direct you to buy directly from them and provide an amazing amount of personal information that it doesn't need. Why would you give any of your information to a third-party when you just need to apply with the insurance provider? Finally, even if you felt like the pricing information was fine with a 25% margin of error, you cannot find any details about the plans such as how much the deductible is, how much the out-of-pocket max is, what type of drug benefits are included, and finally, if your doctor takes the plan.
I'm convinced that the healthcare.gov website is some sort of joke and should be completely ignored. Use our website at www.texashealthdesign.com to contact us for accurate quotes, details about the plans, and the ability to compare plan specifics against each offering. If you want to quote directly with each company find our links at the bottom of our website which provides direct quoting links for your convenience. Right now you'll need to go directly to the specific company to get a direct quote, in the coming days we'll turn on our system to allow you to quote all companies and plans together once we confirm that all the bugs are fixed by our vendor.
You may always simply just click CONTACT US and let us know when to contact you. We'll send you a PDF of quotes you can examine for free. We provide a level of detail that no other broker provides in their quotes. You pay the same price if you go to healthcare.gov, the insurance company, or us, why not get world-class service before and after you buy?
Jason W Bohmann
Texas Health Design