Programmers create new way to navigate health plans

  • Article by: New York Times
  • Updated: November 16, 2013 - 4:52 PM

The stumbling rollout of the federally run online health exchange has frustrated tens of thousands of Americans and sent some looking for alternative sources of information.

It took three programmers in their 20s a few days to offer up an answer. They repackaged data from healthcare.gov into a minimalist website, HealthSherpa.com, that tells consumers what plans are available in their area, based on their ZIP code, plan preference and some basic personal information.

The founders — Michael Wasser, George Kalogeropoulos and Ning Liang — had each struggled to get information about health care options in the online marketplace. So they decided to build their own site, intending to offer consumers a simple way to obtain information about the exchanges.

Using data posted on healthcare.gov, as well as some they requested from state exchanges, they programmed a site that allows users to see a list of available plans in their area, pricing them based on what level of coverage — catastrophic through platinum — the consumer wants.

Users submit their ages, the size of their family, and whether they smoke to get an adjusted price. While the site offers instructions on how to sign up for a desired plan, it does not allow users to do so on the site.

Some users have pointed out inaccuracies, which the creators have ascribed to inaccuracies in the data they have been provided. Wasser said they had placed requests for more data. Nevertheless, Wasser said, the site has amassed more than 1.4 million page views. “How to buy” buttons posted next to each plan have been clicked 152,000 times.

 

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