New labels help minimize guesswork when choosing healthcare plansby Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The federal government issued rules for insurers Wednesday to help consumers avoid the guesswork of choosing the best health insurance plan.
The federal health care law mandates that beginning next year health plans carry "coverage fact labels." The labels will include a simple summary of benefits as well as uniform definitions to commonly-used health insurance terms such as "deductible" and "co-pay." The labels will let the consumer compare policies side-by-side.
Beginning next year, consumers should start to see new "benefit summaries" for three medical conditions: pregnancy, breast cancer and diabetes.
Labels for other medical conditions will follow by 2014. That year consumers will be able to compare and purchase health insurance through online marketplaces known as exchanges.
The rules should be helpful to consumers, particularly by standardizing definitions to complex insurance concepts, Donna Zimmerman of HealthPartners said.
"This is a step in the direction of trying to take these complex terms around coverage and cost and put them in very, very plain English," Zimmerman said. "While we've all worked on that, I think the fact that they tested these views and this type of format with customers is helpful, that'll be used in the future."
The federal health care law will bring tens of millions of uninsured people into health plans beginning in 2014 and many officials say it's critical that consumers understand their choices.