Is it a “glitch” or is it a lie? CBS News has investigated the new feature at Healthcare.gov which allows consumers to see the offered insurance plans without registering. Its reporters found that the pricing displayed dramatically underestimates the actual cost of the plans.
According to CBS, the new “shop and browse” feature often comes with the wrong price tags. One example is how the website lumps people only into two broad categories: “49 or under” and “50 or older.”
Jonathan Wu is co-founder of Valuepenguin.com, a consumer finance website focusing on the impact of health care reform. His company has built a tool that provides quotes for plans on the federal exchange. He said it’s ‘incredibly misleading for people that are trying to get a sense of what they’re paying.’
Prices for everyone in the 49-or-under group are based on what a 27-year-old would pay. In the 50-or-older group, prices are based on what a 50-year-old would pay.
CBS News ran the numbers for a 48-year-old in Charlotte, N.C., ineligible for subsidies. According to HealthCare.gov, she would pay $231 a month, but the actual plan on Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s website costs $360, more than 50 percent higher. The difference: Blue Cross and Blue Shield requests your birthday before providing more accurate estimates.
The numbers for older Americans are even more striking. A 62-year-old in Charlotte looking for the same basic plan would get a price estimate on the government website of $394. The actual price is $634.
Compounding the problem is that Healthcare.gov constantly tells the consumer the actual prices could be lower, but it makes no mention that they could be higher. And based on what we learned today, chances are they will be on the higher side.