HealthCare.gov Gets an Overhaul: What You Need to Know

HealthCare.gov Gets an Overhaul: What You Need to Know

Reviewing health care plans, with their varying coverage, deductibles and premiums, is enough to make your head spin.

But the Obama administration is preparing an antidote—upgrades to HealthCare.gov that should simplify your decision process, according to a government presentation provided to the Associated Press.

The federal website’s latest overhaul is being timed to open enrollment, which begins November 1, for the third time under the Affordable Care Act.

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Nearly 10 million Americans have already signed up for health insurance exchanges created by the ACA, and another 10.5 million are eligible to do so.

The new tools, undergoing final testing, aim to highlight the benefits of coverage—and make it easier to comparison shop for the plan that best fits your needs.

Here’s what you should know about the major changes coming to HealthCare.gov.

Finding Your Preferred Network

In past enrollment seasons, it was cumbersome to figure out whether a plan sold in the federal insurance marketplace was a good match. You often had to go to each insurer’s website to look up which doctors and hospitals and prescription drugs were included in its network.

Now you’ll enter your doctors, drugs, and hospitals directly at HealthCare.gov and find out which plans will satisfy your preferences.

And that’s really important to your bottom line. Some of the plans available at HealthCare.gov don’t offer any coverage for services outside the network—meaning you, the patient, are stuck with the costs.

The plan networks you’re choosing among may also be smaller; a recent study by Avalere Health found that there were 34% fewer hospitals and doctors available through the federal exchanges, compared to plans sold outside of them.

Comparing Health Care Costs

Health plans in the federal marketplace tend to come with lower premiums but higher deductibles—so high that some consumers may never meet them and spend more than they expected.

The site’s new cost-comparison tool should make it easier to estimate the out-of-pocket and total costs associated with one health plan versus another.

You’ll be asked whether you expect your use of medical care to be low, medium, or high, and you’ll enter details like your age and ZIP code, reports The New York Times. And then you’ll be given estimated premiums, deductibles, co-pays for office visits, and other charges.

These aren't the only changes in store for health care. Get the 411 on four trends that should be on your radar for 2016.

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