Health-care answers are just a click away

By Kimberly Lankford
Sunday, July 18, 2010

Q: What kind of information does the new HealthCare.gov Web site provide?

A: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' HealthCare.gov makes it easy to learn about all your personal health insurance options. The site, created in just the 100 days since the health-care overhaul law was passed, was launched July 1. After you enter answers to a few questions (such as your state, age range and health status), the site immediately lists all of the private insurance plans in your area, as well as public programs you may qualify for -- such as the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (the high-risk pool created by the new legislation), any existing high-risk pool in your state, the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid -- with detailed information about coverage and eligibility criteria for each program in your state.

The site also explains the new rules for covering adults younger than 26 and laws governing job-based health coverage (and protections if you lose your job or exhaust your COBRA coverage). And it provides links to hospitals and health-care facilities that offer free or below-cost health care to low-income people.

This is the first time that all of the public and private options have been listed in one place and personalized, which was a major undertaking, because some health-care programs are national, some state-based and some local.

The government used its muscle to gather comprehensive information about the private health insurance programs, which had been difficult to navigate in the past. The site includes more than 1,000 insurance companies with more than 5,500 plan offerings. Type in your Zip code, and you'll see a list of each company offering health insurance in your area. Click on "View Plans" next to an insurer's name to get a list of plans you can buy from it. You'll also see links to the insurer's list of services covered, provider network (with the insurer's tool to check for your doctors), drug coverage and more information.

HealthCare.gov is a great first stop for anyone who is searching for health-care options. But you'll still need to explore further to do a comprehensive search for health insurance. To

get price quotes based on your specific health condition and to buy a policy, you can go to eHealthInsurance.com, contact a local health insurance broker (you can find some at http://www.nahu.org) or contact the insurer directly.

-- Kiplinger's Personal Finance


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