Associated Press Interviews Joel Ario on New Tools to Help Consumers Select Health Plans

Tool to Compare Health Plans Tested with Consumers
– Associated Press

The Associated Press interviewed Manatt's Joel Ario, a managing director with Manatt Health Solutions, about a free online tool that is currently being offered in Illinois that helps consumers learn more about insurance costs on the federal health exchange.

As reported by the Associated Press, a nonprofit group is offering a free online tool that provides substantial information about health plans and costs, with the goal of turning the new insurance exchanges into truly functional competitive markets.

The federal website serves Illinois and 35 other states and can be frustrating to navigate, since it has no central directory to easily show which plans include which doctors in certain networks. HealthPlanRatings.org uses actuarial data to estimate total annual costs for each plan tailored to a consumer's profile and includes a five-star scoring system based on an independent group's ratings of health plans. So far the software is being tested only in Illinois, but it may someday be used to improve the official exchanges run by states and the federal government.

The single-cost number "gives consumers a fighting chance to make a good decision," said Ario, who oversaw initial planning for the insurance marketplaces in the Obama administration. He predicts other innovations will be developed by private industry.

"We'll have tools that go way beyond this," Ario said. "I'd bet on Amazon and Google to create the tools rather than a state exchange."

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