Better Consumer Information
Navigating the purchase and use of a health insurance policy could be a lot easier. What are your basic rights, and how should you decide between your available options? Read about changes and improvements you can expect in the coming years.
Consumers Union Documents
- Customer Service Principles and Performance Standards for Exchange Call Centers
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) commits to giving consumers applying for affordable health coverage a seamless, top-flight experience. Turning that lofty goal into reality will require performance standards to assure the expectation is met. In some instances, for example, consumers calling an Exchange (Federally Facilitated Exchange also known as an “FFE”, or a state Exchange) Continue Reading
- A ‘Nutrition Facts Label’ for Health Insurance
Starting this fall, all private health insurance plans must use this standard “Summary of Benefits and Coverage.” You’ll be able to compare plans side by side because the information will be laid out in the same way, using the same presentation and language. You’ll see it when you shop for coverage on your own or choose a group plan at your job (but not when you select Continue Reading
- The Evidence Is Clear: Too Many Health Insurance Choices Can Impair, Not Help, Consumer Decision Making
A key question confronting policymakers is whether consumers are better or worse off when provided with as many health insurance choices as possible. Consumers Union reviewed the substantial literature in this area and the evidence is clear. While a few choices are good, too much choice undermines consumer decision making, particularly high stakes decisions involving Continue Reading
- Health Reform: Seven Things You Need to Know Now
Consumer Reports has developed this brief guide to help you understand how the changes brought about by health reform
- REPORT: Choice Architecture: Design Decisions that Affect Consumers’ Health Plan Choices (July 2012)
This CU report explores how six health plan chooser tools use choice architecture to guide consumers’ health plan selections.
- REPORT: Actuarial Value under the Affordable Care Act: Plan Valuation with the Consumer in Mind (June 2012)
This report describes key considerations when measuring health plan generosity – a measure that will play new roles starting in 2014.
Consumers Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology developed a series of privacy recommendations to help guide policymakers as they develop new eligibility, enrollment and retention systems for health care programs under the ACA.
- REPORT: Creating a Usable Measure of Actuarial Value (January 2012)
The health reform law uses the concept of “actuarial value” to standardize the financial protection offered by health plans starting in 2014. This report explores the policies needed to ensure that the new actuarial value requirements result in measures that are meaningful and usable by consumers.
- REPORT: What’s Behind the Door: Consumers’ Difficulties Selecting Health Plans (January 2012)
Consumer testing by Consumers Union confirms the widely held perception that people struggle to understand their health insurance policies. Read about our findings and our policy recommendations for strenghtening consumers’ understanding.
- REPORT: Addressing Barriers to Online Applications: Can Public Enrollment Stations Increase Access to Health Coverage? (November 2011)
This report looks at the use of public enrollment stations (sometimes known as “kiosks”) for helping people enroll in health coverage. Looking at pilot projects in a diverse set of states, including Alabama, California, Florida, Maryland, New Mexico and Washington, the paper summarizes the variety of ways agencies have facilitated public access to online enrollment. The paper identifies a number of important lessons learned from pilot projects, which will be important for those states moving forward to implement health care reform by 2014.
- Covered California announces health plans, proposed rates
Health insurance exchange offers plans eligible for subsidies, enables Californians to make smart choices
- Consumers Union Unveils New Health Insurance Poll Results in Senate Hearing
The results show the SBC form makes a difference in the consumer health insurance shopping experience
- Simpler Shopping for Health Insurance with New “Facts Label”
Consumers Union Asks for Feedback on New Insurance Disclosure Form
- Consumers Union Marks Two Year Anniversary of Healthcare Reform with New Consumer Guide
The new free guide offers consumers information to get the most out of their healthcare options
- New Consumers Union Report Launches Project to Measure Health Insurance Literacy, Calls for Partners
Testing shows consumers dread buying health insurance largely because they don’t understand it
- Final Health Insurance Label Is a Good Tool for Consumers
This rule is a big step in helping consumers better understand and evaluate their insurance options
- Medicare open enrollment begins Saturday, Oct. 15
Get prepared for open enrollment with Consumer Reports Guide to Medicare
- Early Consumer Testing of the Coverage Facts Label: A New Way of Comparing Health Insurance
The Coverage Facts Labels is a way for Americans to better understand the coverage offered by health plans.
- Consumer Reports Offers Free Guide to Medicare Changes, New Benefits
The guide will help people navigate the new changes and take advantage of services available under the law
- Consumers Union Urges Lawmakers to Reject Attempt to Cut Federal Funding for State-Based Health Exchanges
State based health exchanges provide competitive, consumer-centered marketplaces for purchasing health insurance
- REPORT: Building Mississippi's health insurance exchange Source: Center for Mississippi Health Policy (Sunday January 15, 2012)
Mississippi is moving forward to establish a state-based Health Insurance Exchange by the HHS deadline of January 1, 2014. The Mississippi Insurance Department has applied for and received federal grants to fund the development of the state’s Exchange… Approximately 275,000 Mississippians are anticipated to enroll in coverage through an Exchange once the ACA is fully implemented in 2014. Out of those expected to utilize Mississippi’s Exchange, approximately 229,000 should be eligible for premium subsidies, which will be administered by the federal government in the form of tax credits.
- Timeline of Health Reform Implementation
The Kaiser Family Foundation provides this timeline that explains provisions of the Affordable Care Act and when they go into effect.
- Demystifying Health Insurance Shopping for Consumers
Covered California, California’s new marketplace that will transform the way consumers shop for affordable health insurance, announced bold action at a press conference today featuring Covered California’s Executive Director Peter Lee and Consumer Reports’ President Jim Guest The event announced how Covered California will transform one of a consumer’s most dreaded tasks—shopping for health insurance—into Continue Reading
- Ask for Your New Health Insurance Summary During Open Enrollment
November is the peak month for employers’ open enrollment for health insurance. You may have several plan options with your employer and you may have other options through your spouse’s employer. Perhaps you shop on your own in the individual market and its time to renew. How are you going to pick the best plan Continue Reading
- It’s about time! Easier Health Insurance Summaries
Another piece of the health reform law has fallen into place – new uniform, easy-to-use health insurance summaries that will help keep you from pulling your hair out over trying to understand your insurance policy. Available to over 170 million consumers with private health insurance coverage, this is the most far reaching reform to date. Continue Reading
- HHS preserves September start date for new easy-to-read insurance summaries
Late last week, the Departments of Health & Human Services (HHS), Labor and Treasury released a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document on the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC), the new, consumer friendly health insurance summary established by the Affordable Care Act. Consumers will see the SBC for the first time when they shop for Continue Reading
- New numbers are in: Health reform removed lifetime dollar limits on coverage for 105 million
In two weeks the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to decide if the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. There’s no doubt the law has been controversial, and claims about “Obamacare” are flying again. In the two years since its enactment, though, evidence about the law’s actual effects has been building. As we’ve previously written, hundreds of Continue Reading
- Health reform law expands preventive care coverage for tens of millions in 2011
While some features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) don’t go into effect until 2014, other provisions of the 2010 law are already well-established. That means that despite our ongoing battles to hold insurance companies accountable, we’re beginning to see evidence of many of the health law’s benefits. For example, in September we reported that the Continue Reading
- Affordable Care Act is increasing coverage, study confirms
In September, we reported on a Census survey showing that the Affordable Care Act expanded health care access to over 500 thousand young adults in 2010 alone. Although some were skeptical of the data, it strongly suggested the increased coverage was the result of a provision requiring that insurers allow young adults to stay covered by their Continue Reading
- New disclosure requirement is wildly popular, not widely known
When we think of the holiday season, the ideal image is not curling up in front of the fireplace to read through our health insurance plans. In fact, one survey showed that we dread buying insurance more than paying our taxes or going to the gym. So it may not be a surprise that in Continue Reading
- Census report shows Affordable Care Act is working
A new report released by the Census Bureau showed that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expanding health care coverage to more than 500,000 young adults in 2010, a number expected to continue rising. The full extent of the ACA’s coverage-expansion provisions, such as increasing Medicaid eligibility and offering subsidies and competitive insurance markets to Continue Reading
- Out-of-pocket caps will help put the brakes on higher health plan costs
A new study shows that average monthly premiums for people who purchase health insurance on their own range from a low of $136 per month in Alabama to a high of $437 per month in Massachusetts. But, as the study notes, these monthly premium figures don’t tell the whole story. Out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, coinsurance, and Continue Reading
- ACOs multiply as Medicare announces 27 new ones Source: Kaiser Health News (Tuesday April 10, 2012)
Despite uncertainty over how the Supreme Court will rule on the health law, a key provision intended to help transform the delivery of care is moving ahead. Advocates say “accountable care organizations” can improve care for Medicare beneficiaries and slow rising costs.
- Health Enterprise Zone legislation passes in Maryland Source: Baltimore Sun (Monday April 9, 2012)
A program to improve healthcare in minority areas and reduce health disparities was approved by the Maryland General Assembly over the weekend.
- California health insurance exchange moving ahead Source: San Francisco Chonicle (Thursday April 5, 2012)
California was the first state to set up the reform bill’s core feature, a health benefits exchange – a marketplace for consumers and small businesses to pick and choose among various insurance plans – that is scheduled to open in 2014.
- Proposals laid out for Oregon health overhaul Source: Modern Healthcare (Thursday April 5, 2012)
Groups in every county have said they want to be a new coordinated care organization, or CCO, charged with lowering costs and improving health care for Oregon Medicaid patients.
- Legislation passed to create health exchanges in Maryland Source: Baltimore Sun (Thursday April 5, 2012)
Maryland continued its aggressive implementation of health care change Thursday despite uncertainty surrounding the issue nationally, as the General Assembly passed legislation to create open markets where people will buy insurance.
- Massachusetts primary care physician groups rated on preventive care in new report Source: Boston Globe (Thursday April 5, 2012)
Massachusetts Health Quality Partners released its latest ratings of physician practices on Thursday. The group found that Massachusetts primary care physicians continue to provide high-quality care overall, although notable differences in quality exist.
- The Supreme Court and healthcare: What will the decision mean in Rhode Island? Source: GoLocal Prov (Monday April 2, 2012)
One thing many Rhode Islanders are wondering now is what will happen to the state healthcare Exchange—and the federal subsidies for income-qualifying individuals to purchase through it – if the individual mandate is struck down.
- A single coordinated care organization could emerge in the tri-county area Source: The Lund Report (Wednesday March 21, 2012)
For the past three months, the managed care plans that have been providing healthcare to people on the Oregon Health Plan have been talking about forming a single CCO and intend to file a letter of intent by April 2.
- Feds jump-start health insurance co-ops with loans Source: Kaiser Health News (Tuesday February 21, 2012)
The plans are being started under the health reform law’s Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program. The aim is to increase competition among insurers, potentially reducing premiums and improving health care quality and customer service.
- Study: healthcare costs decrease when low-income uninsured are provided coverage Source: UC Irvine (Thursday February 9, 2012)
Enrollment of uninsured patients in a program with benefits comparable to those offered under the Affordable Care Act of 2010 resulted in significant healthcare cost savings, a new study finds.