Covered California Introduces Standard Plans
By Anthony Wright
On Wednesday, February 13, Covered California unveiled a new website, its new social media presence and, in particular, the new benefit designs that this marketplace will offer in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act to help California consumers get coverage more easily and affordably.
California has led the way in realizing the promise of "Obamacare" - being first to set up such an exchange where consumers will be able to conveniently shop for quality, affordable health insurance that meets federal guidelines and where many people will be able to receive subsidies (100% federally subsidized) to help pay for coverage.
The standardization of health plans is a breakthrough for consumers, who will now be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons that are virtually impossible in today's market. Consumers trying to buy health coverage today face a complex and confusing experience, including fear of the fine print. The standardization of benefit designs will make it easier for consumers to compare health plans. It will force insurers to compete on cost and quality and customer service, rather than consumer confusion.
Consumers will get good and simple information about what the plan covers, and what it doesn't. It will remove the guesswork so many consumers go through trying to figure out the differences between plans, and provide the peace of mind that the plan they pick doesn't have a hidden loophole they will regret later. For individuals and families who don't work for large employers with significant purchasing power, Covered California will serve as the human resources department for the rest of us.
As consumer advocates, Health Access has sponsored legislation to standardize plans for eight years, and this is a breakthrough that has been long-sought and badly needed. There is more to do to improve affordability and simplicity, but this is a big, bold step forward.
The new Covered California website is at coveredca.com.
Anthony Wright is Executive Director of Health Access California, a statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition of over 200 groups.