Today, HHS launched a web portal designed to provide
families with a central place to go for information on health care coverage in
their state. The folks at HHS must have been burning the midnight oil to get
this done by the July 1st deadline created by Congress.
Healthcare.gov is a remarkable accomplishment in such a short time
frame. Not only can you obtain general educational information on health
coverage, by answering a few simple questions, individuals can receive a list of
state-specific private and public health insurance options available to them
and their family.
This is light years away from what exists today for
families shopping for health coverage. But there still is a ways to go — once
families are provided with the list of options, they have to
navigate through a number of links, and ultimately, leave the site to find more
information and apply for coverage. And let’s face it, until the majority of health
reform provisions are implemented in 2014, there are not a lot of affordable
coverage choices available to uninsured families unless they happen to qualify
for Medicaid or CHIP. (The new
pre-existing condition insurance plans — also officially launching today in
selected states — will offer much-needed relief to some, but were always
intended to be a bridge to broader reform.)
In the meantime, healthcare.gov at least gives families a
starting place to look – and could serve as a particularly critical resource
for the millions of uninsured children (and in some cases their parents) who
are eligible now for Medicaid and CHIP.
The other good news is that HHS also sees this version of
the site as a first step and plans are already underway for a second
iteration. The young
leader of this effort at HHS, Todd Park, is wildly enthusiastic about getting
feedback and doing all that he can to lead his team in making it better and
better over time.
We’ve already added a few items to our list of how to make the
site work better for families, including paring back the number of steps it
takes to get to Medicaid and CHIP information and providing a more prominent
and direct link to state Medicaid/CHIP applications (not just the state’s web
site providing information on those programs.) Plus, we’d like to see a way for people to report back on
their experiences once they leave the safety of healthcare.gov. After they were sent to a private plan
or a Medicaid agency, what happened?
Were they able to get the coverage that they needed?
What would you like to see? We urge you to take a tour of the web site and share with
the Say Ahhh community what you think.