Today marks take two for Healthcare.gov. After the highly criticized and notably flawed rollout of the website last year, Americans on Monday could begin comparing insurance plans through an updated version of the health care website, which the government made available before the upcoming open enrollment period.
The new version of HealthCare.gov is ready for public use five days ahead of the open enrollment period beginning on Nov. 15. The updated site will likely be under tough scrutiny by the media and public after last year's launch exposed widespread glitches. Past problems initially prevented millions of Americans from registering for insurance plans, and some people blamed President Barack Obama for failing to deal with the crisis.
The website serves Americans shopping for health care plans in the 36 states that did not create individual exchanges. The upgraded platform is expected to be more user-friendly and to contain more information than was available last fall. New features include the ability to sort plans by both the amount of the premium and by the size of the deductible, The New York Times reported. Consumers can also use the website to see all health care plans that manage specific conditions like depression, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
A browsing tool was also added, allowing potential buyers to view plans and premiums that fit their needs before signing up for coverage. The component wasn't available during the open enrollment period in October of 2013.
Beginning Monday, Americans can see details of health plans, but they will only be able to make purchases starting on Saturday. The open enrollment period is set to end on Feb. 15, a three-month duration that is half as short as last year's time frame.
After the government worked out glitches in the online marketplace and a new tech manager took over to help improve the troubled platform, Obamacare numbers have consistently met or surpassed goals. The 7.3 million people who were enrolled in government-sponsored health insurance plans by September exceeded the 6 million individuals the Congressional Budget Office predicted would register in 2014. Such a large number originally seemed unlikely following the botched rollout, and enrollment figures during the first month of sign-ups in the online marketplace fell far below the expected outcome.
Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in a case challenging tax cuts for insurance purchased on Obamacare's federally established websites. Plaintiffs argue that the tax subsidies only apply to the health care exchanges established by states. A ruling striking down the federal subsidies would significantly weaken the law since it would make purchasing insurance through the program prohibitively expensive for many.