Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, has taken the lead in carrying out the
massive health-care-reform law.
KIPLINGER: What can people learn at
SEBELIUS: You will get a snapshot of which health-insurance
options are available, including public and private plans. The site
includes information from more than 1,000 insurance companies with
more than 5,500 plan offerings. Some folks may find that they
qualify for public plans they didn't know about. A lot of parents
don't have any idea that their kids qualify for CHIP [the
Children's Health Insurance Program], for instance. There's a whole
section on preventive care. Safe to say, there will be far more
information to help you to investigate the marketplace. The site
will eventually be the portal for the state-based insurance
exchanges when they are up and running in 2014. We're trying to
make it a one-stop destination for health information.
Was it hard to get insurance companies on board?
When we made our first request to the insurers, we got some good
information and some sketchy information. We told them they'd be
side by side with their competitors, and they stepped up their game
a little bit. I believe that competition starts with transparency,
and it's hard to get a competitive market if people don't know what
it looks like. We don't want to be an insurance broker. We want to
provide a non-marketing tool to help people gather information
about the private market.
Can consumers get pricing information?
That will be added in October. Because the individual and
small-group markets in most states still allow medical
underwriting, we'll need some additional information from
individuals to know if their price per month for coverage will be,
say, $300 or $700. But we're not collecting or storing personal
What else will be added to the site?
Medical-loss ratios [which show the percentage of premiums that
goes toward medical care versus administrative costs] will be
listed. We also hope to add market-conduct reports [which provide
detail on an insurer's sales practices and customer service]. For
now, if you contact an insurance company for a quote and something
doesn't seem right or doesn't make sense, check with the state