HealthCare.gov users will have a more streamlined and customized experience when the site reopens Nov. 1, but they may have to wait for new tools meant to help them ensure their preferred doctor is in-network and their prescription drugs are covered.
With window-shopping launching this Sunday, acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt and other senior CMS officials walked reporters through the revamped site. In all, 38 states will rely on HealthCare.gov to sign up consumers this year. The agency expects 10 million people will obtain or re-enroll in exchange plans by the end of 2016.
During the last open-enrollment period, the agency said some returning consumers who enrolled in coverage for 2014 were confused about how to navigate the site because it was designed for first-time shoppers. Now users will be prompted immediately to choose whether they've shopped on the site before and will get a more customized experience.
“Fixes needed to be made to make it easier for consumers to access their accounts,” said Kevin Counihan, CEO of health insurance marketplaces at the CMS.
The administration has been working on simplifying how consumers compare plans and their potential out-of-pocket costs.
Officials are particularly excited about new tools that would help consumers see if their doctor is in a plan's network and if their prescription drugs are covered. But the CMS is still combing data from health insurers and isn't sure the tools will be ready when the new version of the site launches.
Slavitt said the agency hopes to make them live during the 2016 open-enrollment period, which spans Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, but officials declined to promise that would happen.
Even when the new shopping tools go live on the site, the agency will be beta testing them. Users will be encouraged to check the accuracy of the information with the plans.