A greatly expanded website to give small business owners an unprecedented detailed review of their health insurance plan choices was announced last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Just in time for 2012, this powerful new tool allows small business owners to compare the benefits and costs of health plans and choose those that are best for their employees. For the first time ever, it will allow small businesses to research locally available products in an unbiased manner and foster a more transparent and competitive marketplace.
“This new information will help business owners navigate what has traditionally been a complicated and confusing decision,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Both owners and their employees can feel more confident that the plans offered will be the best to suit everyone’s needs.” In addition to the market being difficult to analyze, small businesses do not fare as well large employers when negotiating health care prices, on average small businesses spend 18 percent more for the same health insurance coverage.
This new tool brings needed transparency to the marketplace, which will help ensure insurance companies will compete for business on the basis of price and quality. The tool is located on www. HealthCare.gov, which was created under requirements contained in the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law of 2010. The website is the first of its kind to bring information and links to health insurance plans to one place, and to make it easy for consumers to learn about and compare their insurance options. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services worked to define and collect detailed benefits and premium rating information from insurers across the country to develop the site.
The new information added gives small business owners access to the following:
- Insurance product choices for a given ZIP code, sorted by out-of-pocket limits, average cost per enrollee, or other factors.
- A summary of cost and coverage for small group products that shows the available deductibles, range of co-pay options, included and excluded benefits, and benefits available for purchase at additional cost.
- The ability to filter product selection based on whether the plans are Health Savings Account eligible, have prescription drug, mental health, or maternity coverage, or allow for domestic partner or same sex coverage.
More than 530 insurers have provided information for more than 2,700 coverage plans across all states and the District of Columbia. “Tens of thousands of small businesses from across America have already logged-on to www. HealthCare.gov to see what health coverage options are available to them,” said Steve Larsen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. “The new, unprecedented ability to search at this level of detail will bring the marketplace into better balance by giving insurance purchasers the power of information.”
In addition, the website provides extensive information about consumer rights, tips for how to navigate the market’s complexities, and details on how the Affordable Care Act provides new protections for beneficiaries. To access the small business Insurance Finder, go to the home page of www. HealthCare.gov and click on the blue tab at the top of the page. For more information, visit www.HealthCare.gov, or access the HHS Facebook page or Twitter account. To download a www. HealthCare.gov Insurance Finder widget visit www. He a l thCa r e .gov/ s t ay_ connected.html.