Press Release: CMS Revamps HealthCare.gov

Washington, D.C. (October 26, 2015) -- Last Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a fact sheet detailing new features and improvements to HealthCare.gov. With Open Enrollment 2016 just around the corner, the revamp aims to provide consumers with more information about their plan choices. Consumer-industry coalition Clear Choices supports robust improvements to HealthCare.gov that will aid the consumer decision-making process and enhance the online plan enrollment experience.

HealthCare.gov serves a critical role in providing consumers with the information and tools they need to make effective health plan selections. Although HealthCare.gov has improved considerably since its rocky 2014 rollout, there is still substantial room for improvement.

CMS's planned improvements for Open Enrollment 2016 include streamlined navigation, enhanced window-shopping features, clearer notices of eligibility for financial assistance, a new Out-of-Pocket Cost Calculator, and searchable provider and prescription drug coverage directories. Clear Choices is pleased to see that CMS is taking steps to empower consumers to more easily view, compare, and understand their health plan options, as well as quickly identify their expected plan costs and financial assistance eligibility.

But a smooth rollout requires prioritizing the modern consumer's needs. We urge CMS to ensure that the new consumer support features provide an actionable level of information, present accurate data, and function properly when launched. The new window-shopping features and Out-of-Pocket Cost Calculator should present easily digestible, detailed plan cost and benefit information that facilitates direct comparisons of total out-of-pocket costs between plans.

In addition, the searchable provider and formulary directory tools should allow consumers to input their preferred providers and prescription drugs, and quickly compare health plans that provide in-network coverage. We believe that apt comparison tools are critical for making sure every patient selects the best plan for his or her specific needs.

Clear Choices supports efforts to bolster HealthCare.gov with information and tools that facilitate consumer comparison-shopping. We will continue to follow the progress on HealthCare.gov and the state-based insurance exchange websites. During Open Enrollment 2016, Clear Choices will issue a White Paper on best practices for public health plan websites seeking to support consumer decision-making and improve the consumer experience.