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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.
Sam Gibbs, eHealth Government Systems
Robert Krughoff, Consumers’ CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services
Lynn Quincy, Consumers Union
Question and Answer Session
Thomas P. Miller, AEI
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Sam Gibbs has served as a senior vice president eHealth Inc. since September 2000 and is currently president of eHealth Government Systems. In this role, Gibbs leads the business unit responsible for technology solutions for federal and state governments. Previously, Gibbs was responsible for the company's customer operations and technology licensing business. Before joining eHealth, Gibbs was a vice president and general manager for Rand Worldwide, an engineering services company. Before Rand, Gibbs was founder, president and chief executive officer of AVCOM Systems Inc., an engineering services and systems integration company. Gibbs has also held engineering positions at Hawker Beechcraft and Northrop Grumman Space Systems.
Robert Krughoff is founder and president of Consumers' Checkbook and the Center for the Study of Services, an independent, nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. The organization publishes local versions of Consumers' Checkbook magazine in seven major metropolitan areas. The magazine evaluates local service firms such as hospitals, auto repair shops and banks. The center has also developed the “Consumers' Guide to Hospitals,” “Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees,” “Guide to Top Doctors” and other materials and services for consumers. In addition, it conducts large-scale surveys for other organizations, including managing all of the surveys of members of Medicare Advantage plans and prescription drug plans for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Before founding the center, Krughoff served in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (the predecessor to the Department of Health and Human Services) as director of the Office of Research and Evaluation Planning and as special assistant to the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Consumer Federation of America and has served as treasurer on the board of directors of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. He chairs the Technology Assessment Advisory Committee for the Emergency Care Research Institute.
Thomas P. Miller is a resident fellow at AEI, where he focuses on health policy with a particular emphasis on information transparency, health insurance regulation, and consumer-driven health care. He was a member of the National Advisory Council for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality from 2007 to 2009. Before joining AEI, Miller served for three years as a senior health economist for the Joint Economic Committee, where he organized a series of hearings focusing on promising reforms in private health care markets. He also has been director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute and director of economic policy studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Miller’s writing has appeared in publications such as Health Affairs, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Reader’s Digest, National Review, Forbes.com, the Journal of Law and Contemporary Problems, Regulation and Cato Journal. Before moving to Washington, D.C. to work on public policy, he was a trial attorney, journalist and radio broadcaster.
Lynn Quincy is a senior policy analyst at Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization best known as the publisher of Consumer Reports. Quincy works on a wide variety of health policy issues, focusing primarily on the areas of consumer protection and health insurance reform at the federal and state levels. Quincy serves as a consumer representative with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). She recently completed a grant-funded project that conducted consumer testing of the new health insurance disclosure forms being developed by the NAIC. Before joining Consumers Union, Quincy was a senior researcher with Mathematica Policy Research Inc., where she performed policy analysis, provided technical assistance and modeled outcomes in support of state coverage expansion strategies. She has also held senior positions with the Institute for Health Policy Solutions and with Watson Wyatt Worldwide (now Towers Watson).