HC.gov/etc doing things right for 2015 they should have done in the first place last year (UPDATE)
A couple of weeks ago I noted that for the 2015 Open Enrollment period, the (completely overhauled) Maryland exchange will not only be easing into their new website in several stages over several days (first allowing enrollments by phone, then letting brokers/navigators into the website, then health/social service dept. employees, and finally the general public), but they're also going to allow comparison "window shopping" starting 6 days before the official launch date, to give people extra time to figure out what policy they want to sign up for before actually purchasing it.
Then, a week ago I noted that Idaho--the only state moving from HC.gov to their own in-house exchange website for Year Two--is going one step further by opening up comparison shopping on October 1st...as in, 4 days ago. That's right, if you live in Idaho you can go kick the tires and pick out your plan if you wish right now at YourHealthIdaho.org, though you'll still have to wait until 11/15 to actually check out and complete the process.
But wait, there's more! Covered California is also already offering window shopping for their new 2015 plans!
Well, it seems that Healthcare.Gov is following all of these states. According to new HC.gov "CEO" Kevin Counihan, similar to Maryland, residents of the 37 states covered by the federal exchange (all 36 from last year, minus Idaho but plus Oregon and Nevada) will also be able to "window shop" early as well:
As an example of upgrades this year, people will be able to “window shop” for plans beginning about a week before enrollment opens, Counihan said. Customers new to the system will enjoy a shorter and simpler registration process.
I haven't checked the other 11 state-run sites, but I'm willing to bet that some or all of them are doing the same thing, although most probably won't actually be available for comparison shopping until closer to the actual 11/15 kick-off.
UPDATE: Well, it appears that Louise Norris of HealthInsurance.org has checked the other 11 exchanges, and has a much more thorough writeup of the improvements across all of them. Check it out!