Six months after the passage of health care reform, the Obama administration still finds itself trying to sell the legislation to the American public. A fact made worse by the impending mid-year elections. It’s pretty tough to convince the 53% of Americans who don’t understand what the law actually does that it’s a good thing when the Republicans are painting you as the devil incarnate pretty much on an hourly basis.
You can manage to emphasize with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius when she recently told reporters at a breakfast that she often feels like she’s debating “in some ways mythology.” Of course, she quickly added that the mythology is real to the people who are concerned about it, so that’s what she’s going to be talking about. But there really is no way it can’t be frustrating when three in ten senior citizens still think that at the end of their days they’ll face a death panel that will give them a thumbs down and pull the plug.
The latest attempt on the part of the administration to make “the health care system more transparent” as Sebelius said in one of her blog posts, is the addition of a comparison engine on healthcare.gov. “Find Insurance Options” will allow users to plug basic information into a form (medical and demographic stuff), and get information on plans available in their area with prices and potential restrictions. They will be able to compare premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket limits among other factors. (The same site can be found in Spanish at cuidadodesalud.gov.)
Granted, it may be a PR move — part of the government’s push to create better awareness about the health care law and to get ahead of the Republicans, but in the process, they’ve added a valuable tool to their site. Upon renewal of existing policies, insurers can now no longer discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions, nor can they put lifetime limits on coverage. These and other changes — like allowing children to remain on their parents plans up to age 26 — are the major differences Americans will see until the law’s big provisions (like insurance exchanges) go into effect in 2014. Some industry pundits say insurance costs will continue to rise in this interim period, which means folks are going to be shopping around. Go to healthcare.gov when you start your search and use the comparison engine. It’s good and a long overdue addition to the government’s offerings on the site.