An important tool, healthcare.gov launches

Whether they listened or not, over the last year Americans have heard about health care reform like never before.  There was a great deal of coverage in the media about the back and forth of the debate, but there wasn’t always substantive talk about what was in the bill and exactly what it would mean for consumers.

After this long, drawn-out dialogue I think that Americans are suffering from health reform fatigue.  Not surprisingly, the media too has moved on to new issues, unfortunately leaving many of the real questions people have unanswered.

In an effort to educate the general public about the content of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the federal government launched healthcare.gov last week.  The creation of the site was itself outlined by the legislation, but hopefully the timing of the launch turns out to be an unforeseen benefit.  With media coverage slowing and individual components of the legislation beginning to come into effect ($250 Prescription Drug Rebate for Medicare, High-Risk Pools beginning in August), it might be the case that people are now ready to do some research and start using a tool like this.

The site seems to be fairly comprehensive and thankfully interactive by allowing individuals to tailor their questions and the information they receive based on their personal situation.  Whether you just lost your coverage, you have a pre-existing condition, or you’re a recent graduate who got knocked off your parent’s plan, the site tries to take your specific circumstances into consideration before it lays out some of the available options.

It is also nice to see that the site admits it is still a work in progress and solicits input from visitors in an attempt to make it smoother for future users.  There are admittedly kinks that need to be worked out, but there are also scheduled improvements to come later this year.  This includes the addition of specific private insurance plans and prices and the expansion of parts of the website that compare the quality of care between different hospitals and doctors.  Supporters and skeptics alike, hopefully the site will be welcomed by the many Americans that have questions and serve as an important first step in educating Americans about the potential benefits of health care reform.

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