If you are planning to shop for health insurance, you will soon be supplied with a new standard form at the outset—something like the nutrition label on food products—that will give you details of each policy, ranging from listed illnesses and surgeries to how much it might cost you to have a baby.
Consumers will verily be rescued from confusing, densely-written details that vary from one state to another, and are on many occasions, delivered to them only after they purchase a health insurance product.
Federal regulators will unveil the proposed summary form—part of the health-care overhaul law, on Wednesday, and the requirement will take effect from next March.
"Now, every consumer will have clear, easy-to-read, and concise information that tells them what they need to know," said Erin Shields, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. Officials including Don Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are scheduled to announce the proposal.
Currently, states mandate certain disclosures from health insurers, but they lack consistency and transparency. The information often comes as part of a document known as the certificate of coverage or evidence of coverage, which is often supplied only after a consumer has signed up for a policy. Employers offering coverage typically provide materials to their workers, but these also don't follow any common national format.
"It's very inconsistent," said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation and a former Health and Human Services official.
The proposed new summary is expected to closely follow a draft version from a committee convened by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, people with knowledge of the matter said. Health and Human Services is expected to finalize the form after a public comment period.
Insurers said they were concerned about the potential cost and administrative burden of the new requirement, particularly if they have to create different iterations of the form for every possible plan design a consumer could explore and for every single employer.
"Some plans would be providing tens of thousands of versions of this document," said a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry group.