That's important information to many Americans in choosing a health plan, particularly because a significant percentage of exchange plans are offering narrow provider networks to keep premiums down.
Visitors to Minnesota's state-run exchange, MNsure, for instance, can preview provider networks by clicking on an Excel spreadsheet, which lists all of the available health plans with links to provider-search tools on each insurer's website.
“We've had that information available from the beginning but now we feature it more prominently on our website,” said MNsure spokesman John Reich. “We've worked with carriers to feature those links so folks could make informed decisions.”
Covered California, California's state-run exchange, struggled to get its provider directory function up and running in the first week of open enrollment last week. That left visitors to the site unable to search for their doctor.
On Oct. 7, the California marketplace launched its directory, which allows users to search for specific physicians or hospitals and see which plans on the exchange include those providers in their networks. They can do that leaving without Covered California's website.
But on Oct. 9, Covered California pulled the provider directory offline, citing high traffic and slow page-loading speed.
“We anticipate the directory will return next week with improved performance,” said spokesman Roy Kennedy. Until then, he said, Covered California's website contains a contact list for insurers participating in the exchange. Consumers also can access information by phoning the exchange's service center.
Kennedy said Covered California staffers are reconfiguring some of the directory's navigation paths, adding capacity and enhancing its search functions. “We recognize that many consumers will base plan selection on the provider network so it's critical that it's operating efficiently,” he said. “We think the next version of the directory will be faster, smoother and easier to use.”
In the 36 states with federally run exchanges, consumers will be able to click on links directing them to provider-search functions on insurers' websites, said Claire McAndrew, a senior health policy analyst with Families USA. That is, if visitors are actually able to access the federal marketplace website. On day 10 of open enrollment, attempts to open accounts on healthcare.gov were met with error messages.