Federal officials Sunday night turned on a portion of HealthCare.gov to allow consumers to explore the benefits and prices of health plans that will be sold for 2015 through the federal health insurance exchange.
The window-shopping period is beginning several days before the Nov. 15 official start of the sign-up period for people in the three dozen states that rely on the federal exchange to renew their coverage or buy insurance for the first time.
Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the marketplace, said technical staff working on HealthCare.gov rebuilt this portion of the Web site to make it easier to use.
A year ago, when HealthCare.gov opened for the first time with myriad technical flaws, it drew widespread complaints that people were required to go through a cumbersome registration process before being allowed to look at the plans available to them.
Slavitt and other health officials gave journalists a preview Sunday of what the revised shopping section of the Web site looks like, pointing out that consumers can examine health plans without typing in any personal information. To get price estimates tailored to them, consumers will be asked for three pieces of information: their Zip code, how many people in their family would be covered by a health plan and their income.
Early this summer, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced that most of the several million people who have a health plan through the federal exchange could be automatically re-enrolled. But now health officials are urging people to return to HealthCare.gov, saying that most can find a better plan or save money if they shop again.
Related stories: Officials rush for backup plans to HealthCare.gov