Maryland overhauls usability, DC adds Prescription Drug tool for OE4

Every once in awhile I remember what I actually do for a living (I'm a website developer, for those who don't know). That's actually a major reason I started this project in the first place...the techical meltdown of HealthCare.Gov and many of the state-based exchange sites in October 2013 fascinated me, leading me to start trying to assess just how many people were actually enrolling in the plans using the messy websites, and it spread from there.

Since then, of course, most of the exchange sites have been vastly improved. HealthCare.Gov is literally​ 100,000x better than it was in 2013 (while also now being considered among the most secure major consumer websites in the world), and has completely overhauled and streamlined their user interface and workflow process (cutting the number of screens for creating an account from around 80 down to 16). They've also added some nifty features like their Expected Total Cost, Network and Formulary tools.

The state-based exchanges, meanwhile, have either been absorbed into the mothership of (Oregon, Nevada, Hawaii, and, starting this fall, Kentucky); completely rebuilt themselves from scratch (Massachusetts and Maryland) or have made significant technical improvements/updates of their own.

I believe Vermont's exchange is still a mess, and while Minnesota has made significant improvements, I believe their exchange site is still having significant problems, though I'm sure representatives from either/both will correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, even among the exchanges which are doing well, there's always room for improvement, so it's good to read that neither the Maryland nor DC exchanges are resting on their laurels:


DC Health Link Launches New Prescription Drug Tool
Now in Beta testing, new tool available in English and Spanish

Washington, DC – Today, the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (HBX) announced the launch of a new prescription drug tool to find coverage and cost-related information in health plans. DC Health Link customers can now easily check whether a prescription medication is covered by a health plan and what the related out of pocket costs are. The prescription drug “look up” feature was added to DC Health Link Plan Match, which was launched last year to help DC Health Link customers estimate annual out of pocket costs and to see plans that covered particular doctors. The new prescription drug look up feature enables customers to compare plans and include their prescription medication in the comparison.

With the addition of the new prescription drug tool, DC Health Link customers purchasing private health insurance can easily see which plans cover their prescribed medications. A customer can enter up to ten (10) prescriptions and see a list of health insurance plans covering the medication and how each is covered. The new tool also allows people to see details, including whether a separate drug deductible applies, whether the medication is covered with a copayment or a percentage co-insurance and what the copayment amount and coinsurance percentage is, whether step therapy (trying lower-priced medications before trying higher-priced medications) is required, and whether prior approval from the insurance company is required.


“DC Health Link is committed to empowering customers with information and decision support tools to make informed decisions and to find the best health coverage to fit their budgets,” said Mila Kofman, Executive Director of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority. “We do not expect any customer to try to read a formulary and coverage documents to figure out how multiple prescriptions or even one is treated under 26 different coverage options. The prescription drug look up tool is essential to help our customers make informed decisions.”

This latest decision support tool for DC Health Link customers is available in English and Spanish in Beta form. Customers who qualify for a special enrollment period can shop now using the new prescription drug look up tool. Based on customer feedback, DC Health Link will update the tool for open enrollment, which starts November 1, 2016 and ends January 31, 2017. Similar tools will be made available in 2017 for small business customers and their employees.

DC Health Link Plan Match is powered by Consumers' CHECKBOOK, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation award-winning resource and is the latest in new on-line consumer decision support tools added to

To see the new prescription drug component in DC Health Link Plan Match, click here.


Our Improvements to

Easy to use, understandable and helpful. These goals for have spurred a major redesign that is going live soon to make shopping for health coverage easier for Marylanders before Open Enrollment starts November 1.

Even with increased volume and twice as many total enrollments processed as a year earlier, we knew we had ongoing user challenges with through conversations with consumers, consumer-assistance workers, and social media engagement. With more technical enrollment challenges behind us, we are focusing on refining consumer “self-service” to boost consumer satisfaction and reduce the need for outside assistance.

...How did we improve the Maryland Health Connection website?

Functionality was upgraded — password reset and account creation is now reset and has clear instructions. Answers to seemingly complex questions, such as who to include as members of a household or what income to enter to see eligibility for financial help, will be easy to find and explained in simple terms. We also made instructions clearer about how to verify information in your application, such as income, and how to upload documents.

On we also will present a new design with fewer, clearer entry points, and easier-to-understand information on health coverage, costs and benefits.

Open Enrollment for private health plans and dental plans starts this fall, and Medicaid enrollment continues year-round. We hope you find applying for coverage this year to be easier, simpler and understandable!