It’s official now. The government has proposed that descriptions of health insurance policies will resemble those nutritional labels on canned and packaged foods—the ones you look at to find out how much sodium there is in Birds Eye peas versus the A&P brand. Instead of getting the scoop on salt or sugar, shoppers will learn what they have to pay out-of-pocket for various medical services. They’ll also get some general information, like what services are not covered, and how much they’ll have to pay for maternity and diabetes care and breast cancer treatment, all organized in a standard format designed for easy comparison shopping. Insurers will have to translate common insurance jargon into plain English.
The health reform law requires these “Coverage Fact Label” disclosures, and tasked the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) with creating them. The NAIC released some samples a few weeks ago. Theoretically, consumers armed with this information will choose wisely, and as free-market advocates say, their choices will regulate prices that insurers will charge. If consumers choose the low-cost plans, then prices will come down and policies with the best benefits will flourish.