U.S. Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS) is seeking cosigners for a letter that would ask the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to revamp HealthCare.gov, the federal government’s online health insurance marketplace website launched in October 2013.
The letter will ask HHS to shift HealthCare.gov from its current function of directly enrolling individuals in government-approved health care plans to an informational site helping consumers find plans.
The letter states the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spent more than $9 billion to support the website, and insurance companies have passed the cost along to consumers in the form of user fee increases.
‘Makes Perfect Sense’
Twila Brase, president and cofounder of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says Estes’ request would bring the website in line with the law.
“Having read the website language in the law years ago, and having watched with puzzlement the resulting technological behemoth that was created—which we were led to believe was in line with the statute—Estes’ letter makes perfect sense,” Brase said. “It was always hard to configure the statutory language into the actual exchange and into the federal data-services hub that was created to hold the information collected through the website and other sources.”
Putting Consumers in Charge
Making HealthCare.gov into an informational website would do a better job of helping people decide which health insurance plans are right for them, Estes says.
“There are companies out there that are ready and willing to market insurance products,” Estes said. “People who have bought insurance on the HealthCare.gov marketplace have had to pay what is essentially a tax to use the site. HealthCare.gov, the way it was structured, was a one-size-fits-all government portal, and we want an alternative that provides people information about free-market choices.”
Brase says a more modest HealthCare.gov would be better for shoppers and taxpayers alike.
“It should be a simple website populated by a list of approved, qualified health care providers, with links to the websites of these plans,” Brase said. “Turn off the enrollment functionality and shut down the Federal Data Services Hub, the Health Insurance Exchange Program database, and all the cyber-connections between states, the various agencies of the federal government, and the health plans—imagine the savings!”
Expects Better Values
Estes says his preferred revamping of HealthCare.gov would make the website less confusing and more effective and provide better values for consumers.
“If I imagine looking through my crystal ball to what might happen in 2019, because individuals will no longer be mandated to have Obamacare, they could possibly come to the site, see the options available on the market, and just buy a light catastrophic policy that would be much cheaper for them than Obamacare would ever be,” Estes said.