On Thursday afternoon, four health industry experts joined Tom Miller at AEI to discuss the theory behind and effectiveness of various health plan comparison tools.
Robert Krughoff of Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services began the discussion with an explanation of the essential components of a good tool: description of costs (premium plus out-of-pocket costs), provider directories, measures of quality and an ability to highlight coverage or service gaps. Robert Ellis, also from CHECKBOOK, provided a demonstration of his company’s online tool. He emphasized its ability to synthesize information about each plan so that the consumer can choose between a broad range of plan options without feeling overburdened by information.
Sam Gibbs of eHealth Government Systems largely agreed with Krughoff and Ellis about the characteristics of a good tool, but emphasized that many consumers make health plan choices based on gut-level reactions. Lynn Quincy of Consumers Union elaborated that consumers often mistakenly understand health insurance as pre-paid health care, rather than a defense system against sky-high medical costs. Both Quincy and Gibbs highlighted the necessity of testing these tools in focus groups, stressing that the consumer’s ability to use these tools effectively is essential to a competitive marketplace for health insurance.
Effective choice and competition in health insurance will require better information about the quality and efficiency of health insurance plans. Regardless of whether proposed health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act are ever implemented successfully, consumers and employers need better tools to compare the relative cost and quality of the health care they are likely to receive under different plan options.
At this forum, Robert Krughoff of the nonprofit Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services will unveil his organization’s recommendations for a best practices health plan comparison tool that would assist insurance purchasers in selecting plans that best meet their needs and preferences. Sam Gibbs of eHealth Government Systems will describe what the nation’s leading online source of health insurance for individuals, families and small businesses is doing to present complex health insurance information in an objective, user-friendly format. They will both discuss how better health information tools could improve the performance of health exchanges, health insurers and health care providers.