START OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD

Time: D H M S

UPDATE: The Amazon-ization of HealthCare.Gov continues apace for OE4...

On September 26, 2013, just 5 days before the disastrous initial launch of HealthCare.Gov (as well as ugly rollouts of many of the state-based exchanges), President Obama gave a speech pumping up the impending start of the first Open Enrollment Period at Prince Geroge's Community College.

At one point in the speech, he touted how easy and handy the website would be to use:

Starting on Tuesday, every American can visit HealthCare.gov to find out what’s called the insurance marketplace for your state.  Here in Maryland, I actually think it's called MarylandHealthConnection.gov.  (Applause.)  MarylandHealthConnection.gov.  But if you go to HealthCare.gov, you can look and they'll tell you where to go.  They'll link to your state. 

Now, this is real simple.  It’s a website where you can compare and purchase affordable health insurance plans, side-by-side, the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak -- (laughter) -- same way you shop for a TV on Amazon.  You just go on and you start looking, and here are all the options. 

It’s buying insurance on the private market, but because now you’re part of a big group plan -- everybody in Maryland is all logging in and taking a look at the prices -- you’ve got new choices.  Now you've got new competition, because insurers want your business.  And that means you will have cheaper prices.  (Applause.) 

So you enter in some basic information about yourself, what level of coverage you’re looking for.  After that, you’ll be presented with a list of quality, affordable plans that are available in your area.  It will say clearly what each plan covers, what each plan costs.  The price will be right there.  It will be fully transparent. 

Before this law, only a handful of states required insurance companies to offer you instant price quotes, but because of this law, insurers in all 50 states will have to offer you instant price quotes.  And so if you’ve ever tried to buy insurance on your own, I promise you this is a lot easier.  It's like booking a hotel or a plane ticket. 

Well, needless to say, it didn't quite work out that way...at first.

Since then, of course, HealthCare.Gov has been vastly improved in countless ways, as have most of the state exchange websites (and the state sites which didn't improve have mostly been absorbed into HC.gov anyway). It's now lightning quick, can handle massive amounts of traffic, has been overhauled, re-engineered and streamlined, and has had numerous new features added, just like any good website should. This past fall, HC.gov added important new tools to allow you to see whether your doctor/hospital is in-network or whether a given prescription drug is included in your plan's formularly. Just yesterday they also announced that they're adding an eligibility verification tool for Special Enrollment Periods (which, admittedly, is more for the benefit of the insurers than the enrollees, but still).

In other words, despite the ugly launch, over the past 2 1/2 years HC.gov has transformed into a completely different experience. No, it's still not as easy to use as Amazon or Expedia, but it's a hell of a lot closer than it used to be.

Anyway, for next year, it appears that they're planning on going even further towards that goal, this time on the back-end/administrative side of things. This story from Rachel Karas of Inside Health Policy looks intriguing for the 2017 Open Enrollment Period (aka #OE4):

Healthcare.gov Plans New Customer Service System For Open Enrollment

CMS wants to roll out new customer service features on the federal exchange for the fourth open enrollment period, Healthcare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan said Wednesday (Feb. 24).

A tiny bit of additional info via Karas's tweet:

News from #NAHUCapCon2016: system would keep individ logs of call center convos; status of inquiry, signups, appeals https://t.co/FUGsrloviI

— Rachel S. Karas (@rachelkaras) February 25, 2016

You'll need a subscription to read the full story, but even those tidbits look very promising indeed.

UPDATE: I've been given the OK to provide a direct link to the full story.

I've been informed that this is more of a back-end CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool than a front-end "User Account Profile" sort of thing, but that's still another important step towards making HC.gov more Amazon-ish.