Matthew Holt

What an exchange needs to do

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (who sat in front of me at a meeting last month–my brush with fame) is in the HuffPo writing about the benefits of the (coming) health insurance exchanges. I’m deeply disappointed that we ended up with state-based exchanges rather than the national exchange that was in the House version of the ACA, but I’ll spare you my diatribe on what States and the Senate are good for….Instead let’s focus on what the exchanges will need to do. Deliver accurate information about insurance choices to their users. That means real apples to apples comparisons of benefits, networks, out of pocket costs, etc, etc. This is all still buried on most private markets (e.g. HealthInsurance still doesn’t clearly explain max out of pocket costs–the most important number for most policies). The good news is that there won’t be any distinction between the polices sold to different business sizes and to sick and healthy people. The bad news is that when people see how little their subsidy will buy them, and that most plans will have high deductibles, the good news may get lost. But the exchanges are important advances–even if in some states they may get subverted.

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