“Obama: Healthcare as easy as online shopping” from the Los Angeles Times, the idea of a Kayak.com-like experience is touted as the way that the new healthcare marketplace is going to work for the millions of Americans who will seek health insurance in the next several months. There is a key element of personalization missing from this concept of point, click, and shop experience that the White House is promising. They are stating that an uninsured person will now have the ability to compare plans and determine which plans will “work for your family.” I believe only half of this to be true. The fact is that users of the marketplace will indeed be able to view premiums and plan designs of the available plans. However, will this really mean anything to a person that has possibly never had health insurance?
The key component that is missing is a personalized experience to help the user understand what his or her out-of-pocket expenses might be. Health insurers have been showing individual shoppers monthly premiums for comparison purposes for years, so, this is really nothing new. What would be new and progressive is if these sites also helped the user understand what the total, annual out-of-pocket expenses (in addition to the premium) could be. By answering a few simple questions about chronic conditions, planned procedures and overall planned healthcare use, a user could be given a rough estimate of total out-of-pocket expenses. This could show the differences between a traditional PPO plan and a high-deductible plan. Without this shopping experience, the vast majority of these healthcare neophytes will elect to choose the plan with the smallest premium. This could cause financial woes once the medical bills start arriving.
In addition to the missing element of personalization, the marketplace is having a tough time handling the volume. The government was expecting a trickle into the marketplaces during the six month enrollment period. After visiting www.healthcare.gov the evening of October 1 and the morning of October 2, I was greeted with the following message:
“We have a lot of visitors on the site right now. Please stay on this page. We’re working to make this experience better, and we don’t want you to lose your place in line. We’ll send you to the login page as soon as we can. Thanks for your patience!”
Based on my experience it appears they weren’t ready for the volume they are receiving. It should be an interesting next six months to say the least…
Director of Product Management