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“Facts label” makes health insurance shopping simpler

September 24, 2012

Simpler Shopping for Health Insurance with New “Facts Label”
Consumers Union Asks for Feedback on New Insurance Disclosure Form

WASHINGTON, DC – Consumers will now be able to evaluate and choose their health insurance plans just as they choose what to put in their grocery cart with the launch of the new Summary of Benefits and Coverage form. Much like the nutrition facts label, the first-of-its-kind form allows consumers to compare plans apples-to-apples and cuts through much of the industry jargon that can often trip consumers up.

“For the first time, consumers have at their fingers a resource that helps to answer the basic questions most Americans have – what kind of coverage and costs can I expect with each plan,” said Lynn Quincy, senior health policy analyst for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “The Summary of Benefits and Coverage is an essential tool that can help consumers avoid buying insurance plans that don’t fit their needs and may ultimately harm them if they are surprised by unexpected gaps in coverage.”

The Summary of Benefits and Coverage, created by the Affordable Care Act, also includes a new feature, called a Coverage Example, which outlines consumer’s bottom line for a hypothetical medical scenario, like having a baby.

Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are also launching online tools to make sure consumers know about the new form, and can share their experiences shopping with the new information. Consumers can see a sample Summary of Benefits and Coverage, with additional explanation on how to get the most out of the form, by visiting www.consumerreports.org/SBCinfo.

Additionally, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is encouraging consumers who use the form to share their feedback and suggestions on how it can be improved. The feedback form is available at www.SBCfeedback.org.

The request for feedback follows the consumer group’s commitment to incorporating consumer feedback in the development of the form. Consumers Union conducted extensive consumer testing of the draft Summary of Benefits and Coverage before the form was finalized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in February.

Quincy said, “The point of this tool is to help consumers make informed choices, so we want to hear from the people it was designed to help. Our previous consumer testing showed that people dread purchasing insurance largely because they don’t understand it. We know that this new form will help take some of the mystery out of health insurance, but we also want to hear from consumers about their experiences and how to make it even better.”

The form is available when consumers shop for coverage on their own or choose a plan through their employer beginning September 23. If consumers do not receive a copy from their insurer or employer when renewing their coverage, they are encouraged to contact their insurance company or benefits manager.