I really couldn’t say it any better.
Why is it so hard for us to get concrete information on healthcare and our options? As David Wessel describes so well in his (2004!) Wall Street Journal piece, he and his wife faced a bewildering array of options and terminology as they tried to choose between the two plans offered by their employers. And as he acknowledges, they were actually lucky in that at least they knew they were going to have health insurance. For those who aren’t being offered any plan by their employer or are unemployed, the lack of information is even starker.
Over four years later, little has changed. There are worksheets like this one for people looking to buy an individual plan, where you can plug in your zip code and some basic information and compare different health plans, though you still need to figure out what the difference is between “co-insurance” and “deductible.” If you click on “co-insurance,” the site helpfully tries to give you a definition, but ultimately needs to provide this disclaimer: “Please note, however, that definitions of certain terms may vary across insurance companies.”
I also found a forum or two where people write in questions, but as the answer very often seems to be, “It depends.” Or if you’re not feeling so polite, “Ask your health insurance carrier. We haven’t read your policy.” And this in a forum called “Health Insurance and HMO Plans”! (Being a lawyer, I know this is often the correct and right answer, but it only goes to show how complicated it’s gotten.)
So much depends on which state you live in, as each state has its own rules and regulations regarding healthcare, so it was particularly depressing to find this. Although many other consumer and advocacy sites had linked to this series of state-by-state guides, run by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, the site had lost its funding in September 2008.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there’s no information on healthcare out there. There are a gazillion blogs, focusing on everything from the pharmaceutical industry to nurses. There are numerous research institutes. But the ones below are the sites I found interesting and useful as we began to think through what we wanted for our CDP healthcare pilot project.
- HealthCareCoach.com (a project of the National Health Law Project)
- Healthconsumer.org (for Californians)
- Health Information Tool for Empowerment (for New Yorkers)
- About.com Health Insurance
Online Data on Healthcare Coverage and Issues
- CDC National Center for Health Statistics
- U.S. Census Bureau Data on Health Insurance
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
- Prevention Quality Indicators in NY State
- New York City Community Health Profiles
- Medical Expenditure Survey
Organizing Sites, with Places to Share Personal Stories
Please let me know if there are other sites you have found useful or interesting, as I’d love to add to this list.