Consumer Reports’ Health Insurance Tool Helps Consumers Navigate Open Enrollment

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HealthLawHelper.org can help people understand their options and take advantage of tax benefits. Open enrollment starts November 15.

Health Law Helper is designed to help consumers quickly and easily get information about how the health care law may affect them and their families, understand any new options that may be available, and provide direction on how and when to take action.

With the open enrollment period for health coverage beginning on Saturday, November 15, Consumer Reports has a web-based tool at HealthLawHelper.org offering valuable information to help consumers navigate their healthcare options.

The newly updated web-based tool at http://www.HealthLawHelper.org offers personalized guidance to help consumers better understand how they may be affected by the Affordable Care Act. The tool is also available in Spanish at http://www.aseguratusalud.org and across a variety of platforms, including mobile and tablet.

“Health Law Helper is designed to help consumers quickly and easily get information about how the health care law may affect them and their families, understand any new options that may be available, and provide direction on how and when to take action,” said DeAnn Friedholm, Director of Health Reform at Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports.

Launched in September 2013, Health Law Helper has been updated to connect consumers with critical information about tax credits under the health law and how to qualify. Last year, 80 percent of people who signed up for coverage under the new law also qualified for tax credit discounts.

The site allows consumers to get connected with advice from Consumer Reports experts about what to do if a plan is being cancelled. Consumers can submit their coverage questions and stories to Consumer Reports experts. The revised site also reflects all the changes for the new open enrollment season, which is much shorter this year and ends on February 15, 2015.

A recent survey on health care costs conducted by Consumer Reports in 2014 found one-third of all consumers indicated they had postponed doctor visits, tests, filling prescriptions, or surgery, due to cost. Nearly half (46 percent) of the underinsured denied themselves medical treatment for reasons of cost. And, more than half of consumers said their deductible is too high (52 percent) and their premium is too high (51 percent).

HealthLawHelper.org is a customized, consumer-tested platform that takes complex insurance information and breaks it down into practical and useful nuggets for the average consumer. The tool has been designed to address a wide variety of individual situations and circumstances. Using the online tool is a simple process for consumers. They are asked to answer basic questions about their whereabouts (state and citizenship status), their family (including size and household income), and their current health insurance status.

Some things about the site haven’t changed. You can still use it to:

  • Get personalized advice on our best options for insurance coverage and whether you need to make any changes during the open enrollment season.
  • Learn about penalties and tax requirements under the new law.
  • Connect with resources including in-person assistance, tips on picking a health plan, and much more.

“Make sure you have the coverage you need,” Ms. Friedholm said. HealthLawHelper.org can help you understand your options—and make the smartest decision for you and your family.”

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over eight million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Consumer Reports Poll Methodology

This survey was designed by the Consumer Reports National Research Center and conducted by GfK Research in July, 2014. The online survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population.

The survey design also included two supplemental sample groups to ensure ample sample sizes for analysis: (1) 500 “heavy users” of health care services (2) 500 uninsured respondents. For analysis, these supplement samples were added to those identified belonging to each group in the original sample of 1,000 resulting in 1,079 heavy users and 620 uninsured.

Sample error for each group at the 95% confidence level is as follows: 1,000 general population +/- 3.3; heavy users of health care services = +/- 3.3%; uninsured respondents = +/- 5.1%. Initially, participants were chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, GfK Custom research, LLC (including its subsidiary Knowledge Networks, Inc.) (“GfK”) provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection. People who already have computers and Internet service are permitted to participate using their own equipment. Panelists then receive unique log-in information for accessing surveys online, and then are sent emails throughout each month inviting them to participate in research.

More technical information is available at http://www.knowledgenetworks.com/ganp/reviewer-info.html.

Funding for this survey was provided in part by The Atlantic Philanthropies.

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David Butler

Lauren Hackett