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Senate Adds Online Consumer Reviews to Their Health Care Bill

December 7, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate on Monday unanimously approved an elegant, two-page amendment to the health care bill that Sen. Mark Pryor [D, AR], the amendment’s sponsor, says will “both simplify a consumer’s search for the right health care company and make health insurance companies more responsive to patient needs.”

Under the Senate health care bill, by 2014 states would have to set up new health insurance marketplaces known in the bill as “American Health Benefit Exchanges.” These exchanges would have some regulatory qualities — they would only let in plans that meet certain minimum standards — but, essentially, they would be websites where people buying insurance on the individual market could comparison shop between different plans. The details of all the plans on the exchanges would be presented in a standardized manner so consumers could easily compare plans on things like price, deductibles and covered services.

Pryor’s amendment would add customer satisfaction information to the Exchanges. Ezra Klein says it would make shopping for health care more like looking for a good book on It’s a helpful analogy, but unlike Amazon’s system that allows anyone to describe a product in their own words, Pryor’s amendment would create an enrollee satisfaction survey to be administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services using a numerical rating system.

It’s modeled after the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program, which provides health care to members of Congress. The program lets enrollees rate different aspects of their plans on a scale of 1-100 and then makes the aggregate data available to federal employees to help guide their future health care purchasing decisions. The system lets you compare the ratings of plans on things like “how well doctors communicate” and “claims processing,” but it doesn’t let you read in detail about a nightmare experience that someone may have had with customer service.

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