Obama Administration Unveils HealthCare.gov Upgrades

The Obama administration on Sunday unveiled a faster, more user-friendly version of HealthCare.gov, the Washington Times reports.
Officials launched the updated federal exchange website one week before the Affordable Care Act’s third open enrollment period begins on Nov. 1 (Howell, Washington Times, 10/23).

New Features

According to The Hill, the upgraded website aims to provide consumers with more information and a smoother enrollment experience (Sullivan, The Hill, 10/23).
Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt said, “The consumer experience this year will be easier and faster” (Washington Times, 10/23). He noted that the site operates 40% faster than it did last year (Attias, CQ News, 10/23).
The new features include:

  • Immediate notification about whether consumers qualify for financial assistance via subsidies or tax credits and how much they are eligible to receive (O’Donnell, USA Today, 10/23);
  • The out-of-pocket cost estimator (CQ News, 10/23); and
  • Pop-up reminders to ensure consumers submit all the information needed to complete enrollment, such as Social Security numbers and documents showing an individual’s immigration status (The Hill, 10/23).

In addition, consumers will be able to:

  • More easily reset their passwords (USA Today, 10/23); and
  • Use the website to determine eligibility for family members (Washington Times, 10/23).

According to Lori Lodes, communications director at CMS, the website also will tailor information to consumers based on whether a user is a returning or first-time applicant. She noted that returning customers no longer will need to enter a 14-digit identification code when logging into the site because the code will be saved automatically.
In addition, Lodes said the website will remind users of the new features and recommend that consumers call their providers and insurers to confirm health plan information (CQ News, 10/23).

Delayed Feature

Exchange officials have delayed a tool that would allow consumers to check which physicians and medications are covered under selected health plans.
According to The Hill, officials have not been able to get such data to display correctly (The Hill, 10/23). Lodes said officials have validated just more than half of the data provided by insurers so far, noting that the data “need … to be better.” She added that some of the issues with the tool have been caused by duplicate drug listings and physicians with multiple office locations.
Lodes said the administration would release the new tool when it is “confident in the data” (CQ News, 10/23).
Kevin Counihan, CEO of HealthCare.gov, added, “One of the key lessons learned is we don’t want to introduce anything that’s not fully working” (The Hill, 10/23).