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Q. I need health insurance now. Can the health reform law help me find an affordable policy?
A. The website Healthcare.gov, launched in the summer of 2010, takes much of the mystery and frustration out of shopping for a health plan. For the first time, consumers can find and compare prices and benefits for thousands of private insurance policies as well as community health services and public health programs like Medicaid or Medicare.
The one-stop shopping website — required by the new health care law — has details on more than 4,400 plans across the country from more than 225 insurers and will be updated monthly. For anyone who's searched online for airplane tickets or books, the process will be very familiar. And a novice should be able to get the hang of it pretty easily.
First, you select your state, and indicate whether you're looking for coverage for a family, a healthy individual, an individual with a medical condition, a senior, a young adult under 26, a small-business employer or someone who is self-employed. After providing ZIP code, birth date, and answering a few more quick questions, you'll see a list of plans you can narrow down based on premiums, deductibles, overall out-of-pocket expenses, doctor choice, drug coverage and other factors.
(You won't have to give your name, and any other personal information you enter is used only to produce a customized list for you and is not retained.)
Insurance companies have had to certify that the plan details provided to the government are accurate.