New $3.5-Million Web Site ‘Healthcare.gov’ Is ‘Informational’ and ‘Factually Correct,’ Says HHS Secretary

July 1, 2010 - 10:25 PM
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, at a Thursday press conference announcing the launch of healthcare.gov, said the Web site will help consumers make decisions about health care and health insurance. The new Web site also claims, 'Health care is getting better.'

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled on Thursday a new $3.5 million Web site mandated by the Affordable Care Act that was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – When asked whether its new $3.5 million Web site, mandated by the Democrats' health care law, has a political side to it, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did not directly answer but said the site is “informational” and “factually correct.” 

Every page of the new Web site has a banner that reads, “Health care is getting better. So is HealthCare.gov.” Also, on its “Understand the New Law” page, the site says the Affordable Care Act “will hold insurance companies more accountable and will lower health care costs, guarantee more health care choices, and enhance the quality of health care for all Americans.”
 
Sebelius, at a Thursday press conference announcing the launch of healthcare.gov, said  the site would help consumers make decisions about health care and health insurance.
 
CNSNews.com asked the HHS secretary what she would say to people that might claim that “this is more of a political Web site or at least has a political side to it?”
 
Sebelius said, “One of the things that the law that Congress passed and the president signed directed us to do was put together a Web site for consumers so they would have access to information. So this was part of the design of the package that – it’s one thing to have information but it’s another thing for people to get access to it.”
 
She continued, “I would say that in – the notion that, is this an informational Web site? You bet. We have just had a new law passed which has an incredible array of features in it, many of which are really not well-known to consumers.”

Todd Park, chief technology officer with HHS, said the Web site healthcare.gov was created in 90 days and will evolve as the Affordable Care Act is put into place until it is fully implemented in 2014. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Sebelius said that some of the features of the law already in place, such as adult children being able to be on their parents’ health insurance plan, a $250 rebate for seniors who have a “donut hole” gap in coverage, and “high-risk pool” coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, are all signs that health care in the country is improving under the law.
 
“So, I think it’s factually correct and provides an opportunity to access that information about what is changing about the health care law,” said Sebelius.
 
“So I think in the definition of getting better, you bet,” she said. “Things have moved in a direction that is helpful to a lot of consumers.
 
On the home page of the Web site a blue box, “Find Insurance Options,” invites visitors to find out their health insurance and health care options by answering several questions, including whether they are having a hard time finding insurance, their age, and any medical conditions they may have.
 
The form also asks visitors to provide the state they live in and, for many states, a zip code is required to link to health insurance providers who offer plans for families and individuals. Then the following message is posted, with links to show how the Affordable Care Act will improve coverage in that state, shown here in sequential order.
 
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT INDIVIDUAL INSURANCE:
 
Unless you live in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, or Maine, be aware that the current marketplace creates several challenges for the consumer:
 
Availability - Insurers aren't required to sell policies to everybody. They may or may not decide to sell one to you based on your health condition, medical history, or even your job.
 
This will end, learn more.
 
Under the Affordable Care Act, this will change. Starting as early as September 2010, insurers won't be allowed to turn children down because of a pre-existing condition. Starting in 2014, these same plans won't be able to turn down anyone who has a pre-existing condition.
 
Affordability - Insurers can charge more based on your health profile or other characteristics. This can make your costs significantly higher than an advertised price or pre-application quote.
 
This will change, learn how.
 
Under the Affordable Care Act, this will change. Starting in 2014, insurers won't be allowed to charge you a higher premium based on your health status. Also, plans won't be allowed to charge you a higher premium based on your gender, and there will be limits on how much premiums can vary based on age.
 
Adequacy - This may be a problem no matter where you live. Policies may have high deductibles, exclude pre-existing conditions from coverage, strictly limit drug coverage or set other limits that leave you with less coverage than you need.
 This will change, learn more.
 
Under the Affordable Care Act, this will change. Starting in 2014, all new plans sold to individuals will have to cover essential benefits. Also, there will be limits on how much you have to pay each year out-of-pocket for covered services. These same plans won't be allowed to exclude coverage for any pre-existing conditions.
 
One portion of the Web site under the “Understanding the Law” headline includes a timeline of “What’s Changing and When.” On January 1, 2014, the timeline states that “Promoting Individual Responsibility” will be in place, which it says requires all those who can afford it to buy health insurance or pay a fee.
 
The law states that those who can afford health insurance but do not purchase it could be fined by the Internal Revenue Service.
 
Todd Park, the chief technology officer for HHS, referred to health insurance companies in his remarks at the press conference. He said that it was up to them to be well-represented on healthcare.gov based on the “less than terrific response in terms of links” the government received from insurance providers.
 
“We’d really like you to provide them,” Park said. “We think it’s actually good for everybody if you do. So we give you a chance to actually provide that. If you don’t, we’re actually going to put ‘no link provided’ for everyone to see on July 1st. And sure enough, insurers responded.”
 
“One of the things that’s interesting about markets is that products that are better understood by consumers are more likely to be bought and so we’re hopeful that by creating this transparent playing field, that will put pressure on insurers to actually improve these links over time and make them ever more useful for the public,” Park said.
 
In a Rasmussen survey of 1,000 people on June 25-26, 52 percent of likely voters said they were in favor of repealing the health care law and 40 percent opposed repealing it.