THE BLOG Gives Consumers Control of Health Care

07/01/2010 06:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A little more than three months ago, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law and instructed his team to get to work on implementing it so the American people could begin to see the benefits of a consumer-driven market place. In the last 90 days, we've made significant progress in putting in place the building blocks of a new health care market place that puts control in the hands of consumers, not insurance companies.

Today, families across the country are breathing a sigh of relief that their children will no longer be denied insurance because of a preexisting condition and insurance companies can no longer cap their coverage with a lifetime limit. Small businesses are taking advantage of tax credits to help provide health care to their employees, parents can add their adult kids to their insurance policies if they can't find good health care, and seniors hitting the donut hole are better able to afford their prescription drugs thanks to a $250 tax free rebate check.

These are just a few of the real and tangible benefits of reform that are coming online now to help people find better quality and more affordable health care between now and 2014 -- when insurance market reforms will be in place and Americans and small businesses will have access to more affordable choices through competitive market places called Exchanges.

For too long, the marketplace for private health care insurance has been disorganized and confusing. If you've ever shopped for insurance yourself, you know how tough it can be. Combine this with the various public coverage options, such as CHIP, COBRA and the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans -- and the landscape can be overwhelming. This confusion has taken the power away from consumers, and put it in the hands of insurance companies.

Today, we're taking that power back by providing the transparency and clarity consumers need to take charge of their own health care. We are launching -- which will make health insurance market more open, accessible and competitive. With over 500 pages of new content, puts power back in consumers' hands by combining -- for the first time ever -- all of the public and private health care coverage options into one place, and features an easy to use tool to discover which options are best suited for any given situation.

The site delivers three core benefits to consumers:

• It provides extensive information about their rights, how to navigate the current insurance market, and how the Affordable Care Act will help them and their family - tailored to their life situation (e.g., seniors, young adults, families with children, people with disabilities, small employers).

• It gives consumers the ability to search for both public and private health coverage options that are right for them by compiling an unprecedented catalog of federal, state, and private insurance options for consumers in one place - including Medicaid programs, the Children's Health Insurance Program, the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan and other currently operating state high risk pool plans, coverage options such as the ability for young adults to be covered through their parents until they are 26, and more than 5,000 products from over 1,000 private insurance carriers across the nation.
Based on answers to a series of questions, produces a menu of potential coverage choices personalized for each user - with literally billions of potential personal scenarios supported. In October, private insurance plan pricing and more detailed information on benefits and cost-sharing (e.g., deductibles, co-insurance) will putt even more power in the hands of consumers. Beyond October, we plan to add more useful information about private insurance plans, including the percentage of premiums spent on administrative costs.
In the event these specific coverage options don't work, will enable consumers to find affordable care options by providing a link to safety net providers and community health centers near where they live.

• And, finally, it is a source of information about new resources and benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act, as they become available, such as the Patient's Bill of Rights and new benefits for seniors; consumers can sign up for email updates to stay informed.

As the information on the site grows and expands, it will also be changing in response to feedback from its users. Most pages on the site include a feedback tool where consumers can tell the Department of Health and Human Services, which manages the site, whether or not they liked the content and ideas for how it can improve. The site's users can become collaborators to ensure that the content is useful, timely, and organized clearly. is a revolutionary tool for health care but it is also a continuation in the trend of how the Obama Administration is using online tools to empower individual Americans. From live webchats, Facebook discussions, and online dialogues, the Administration is focused on finding new ways to give Americans a voice and create channels where it can listen to what the people have to say. That's why we're deeply committed to making this site as useful to consumers as possible. Throughout the site, we've embedded the opportunity for users to give us feedback, webpage by webpage. With their help, we will continue to improve the site to make sure consumers are getting the information they need to make smart health care choices.